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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Chavez says Russia to help Venezuela make rifles

CARACAS, Venezuela, May 30 (Reuters) - Russia will help Venezuela build plants to make Kalashnikov rifles and ammunition after the United States restricted arms sales to the South American nation, President Hugo Chavez said on Tuesday.

Chavez also told a press conference in Quito, Ecuador, that a delivery of 30,000 Kalashnikov automatic rifles was due to arrive from Russia in early June.

"The Russians are going to install a Kalashnikov rifle plant and a munitions factory. So we can defend every street, every hill, every corner," he said in remarks broadcast in Venezuela.

Washington banned all weapons sales to Chavez's leftist government this month because of U.S. concern about his ties with Cuba and Iran and what it called his inaction against guerrillas in neighboring Colombia.

The sanctions led to a diplomatic freeze with Venezuela, a major U.S. energy supplier and the world's No. 5 oil exporter.

Chavez rattled the White House earlier with a deal to buy 100,000 Russian automatic weapons.

Earlier this year, the United States expressed concern about Spain's plans to sell $1.56 billion in military ships and planes to Venezuela.

Chavez charges the United States with orchestrating a 2002 coup that briefly toppled his government and frequently accuses the United States of planning to invade Venezuela.

"The invasion plan is prepared, we even have part of this plan. They change it of course," Chavez said, although he added he was working to avoid such an attack.

Washington denies it plans to invade Venezuela and says Chavez is destabilizing the region.

Russia is the world's No. 2 oil exporter. Russia's Gazprom is exploring for natural gas in Venezuela, and Russian oil major LUKOIL says it wants to invest up to $1 billion in developing Venezuelan deposits.
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