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Monday, June 19, 2006

Venezuela Purchasing 24 New Russian-Made Fighter Jets

Voice of America News: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says his government will purchase 24 new Russian Sukhoi fighter jets this year to replace a fleet of U.S.-made F-16s.

President Chavez made the announcement Wednesday in a speech before hundreds of soldiers at a military base in Caracas. Mr. Chavez also presented the troops with new Russian-made AK-103 rifles - part of an order of 100,000 of the weapons scheduled for delivery within the next six months.

President Chavez said Venezuela is preparing for what he called the defense of sacred land. He has frequently warned that the United States could invade to seize control of Venezuela's oil reserves.

U.S. officials deny any such plan exists. Last month, U.S. officials cited alleged Venezuelan links to Cuba and Iran as a reason behind a decision to ban arms sales to the government in Caracas.

Venezuela has warned it could sell its F-16 fighter jets to other countries, such as Iran, while looking to buy more aircraft from Russia. U.S. officials say Washington and Caracas have previously signed agreements that would not allow such a resale.
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