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NEWS & COMMENTARY 2008 SPEAKERS 2007 2006 2005

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Venezuela, Belarus seal "anti-imperialist" alliance

MINSK (Reuters) - Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez said on Tuesday he had forged a strategic alliance to stand up to U.S. imperialism with fellow maverick Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko.

"Our countries must keep their hands at the ready on the sword," Chavez, in ex-Soviet Belarus as part of a world tour, said on a visit to a military academy.

"After a day of intensive work, we have created a strategic alliance between our countries," he said, speaking through an interpreter. "It is absolutely vital to protect our homeland, to guard against internal and external threats."

"The jaws of imperialism and hegemonism have both us and Belarus in their grip."

Chavez did not give details about what the alliance would involve. He is a bitter critic of the United States and proclaims socialist ideals to unite South America against Washington's influence.

Lukashenko runs a Soviet-style command economy. Washington says he runs the last dictatorship in Europe. Belarus is subject to
European Union and U.S. sanctions after Western observers accused him of rigging his own re-election in March.

Like Chavez in Venezuela, Lukashenko has strong support with poor voters.

"The number of countries in the world which resist the forces of dictatorship is growing," said Lukashenko, standing alongside him at the military academy.

Chavez leaves Belarus on Tuesday for Russia where he is to sign a deal to buy Russian fighter jets and helicopters. His tour will also take in Qatar,
Iran, Vietnam and Mali.

The tour is in part to lobby for Venezuela's bid for a seat on the
United Nations Security Council.
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