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News // Russia

Chavez visits Russia to discuss arms, energy deals

10 September 2009 , 11:49thestar1909

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez will discuss major energy and military agreements with Russia during a two-day visit from Wednesday.


Cooperation between Russia, the world's No. 2 oil exporter, and OPEC member Venezuela has been dismissed by the United States as mostly talk but is watched with concern by Colombia, which has stormy ties with its Latin American neighbour.

President Dmitry Medvedev's chief foreign policy aide Sergei Prikhodko said talks would focus on widening cooperation.

«About 10 agreements which embrace the fuel and energy sector, military technical cooperation and finance have been prepared," he told reporters in the Kremlin.

Chavez, who has used seven earlier visits to Russia to lambaste the United States, will meet Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Thursday. The Kremlin has previously sought to distance itself from Chavez's anti-U.S. rhetoric.

The Kremlin said discussions would focus on energy projects, mining and defence, with agreements expected on military cooperation and the development of the Orinoco oil belt.

Chavez, a former soldier who led an abortive 1990s coup before later winning an election, wants to rearm the Venezuelan army with Russian missiles, tanks and diesel submarines.

The Kremlin said no major arms deals were expected during the visit but Russia could lend Venezuela money to buy its military equipment.

„ We do not rule out the possibility of expending credit for the exports of Russian military hardware," Prikhodko said. He gave no further details.

Chavez has said he will buy dozens of Russian tanks to counter a planned increase in the U.S. presence in Venezuela's Andean neighbour Colombia.

Venezuela and Colombia came close to war last year and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has accused Chavez of supporting FARC Marxist rebels fighting Bogota.

Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA and a consortium of Russian companies were expected to present a joint venture to develop a block in the Orinoco oil belt this month.

«An agreement between the Russian oil consortium and PDVSA will be signed in the near future," Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin told reporters in Moscow. «The creation of a joint venture is yet to be approved by Venezuela's parliament.“

It was unclear if a formal contact to jointly develop the Junin 6 block, with estimated production capacity of 200,000 barrels per day, would be signed during the visit.

The Russian consortium includes Rosneft, Gazprom, Lukoil, TNK-BP and Surgutneftegaz. It also intends to bid for blocks in the Carabobo project.

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