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Friday, August 04, 2006

Chavez: Venezuela to get defense system

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - Venezuela will install an advanced air-defense system with anti-aircraft missiles capable of shooting down approaching enemy warplanes, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Thursday.

Chavez, who has repeatedly accused the United States of plotting to overthrow him, said the missiles would help defend the oil-rich country against any "aggression."

"We're going to acquire the most modern anti-aircraft defense system," Chavez said during a televised speech in the coastal state of Falcon, where military planes and newly purchased Russian helicopters swooped overhead during a military parade. "We're going to armor Venezuela."

He said the air defense system would protect Venezuela from its Caribbean coast to its Amazon border with Brazil. He suggested he saw components that Venezuela will buy in visits to Russia, Belarus and
Iran over the past week.

"The modern systems that we saw in Russia, Belarus and Tehran detect the target at 125 miles. They come with missiles that go direct, guided by the heat of the planes that come," Chavez said. "Venezuela will be armored to defend ourselves against any aggression."

Flush with booming oil profits, Chavez has been spending heavily on Venezuela's military while warning the country must be prepared in case U.S. troops one day attempt an invasion. American officials dismiss the suggestions as preposterous, though
President Bush has called Chavez a threat to democracy in the region.

Chavez sealed a deal last week in Russia to buy 24 Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets and 53 helicopters. Venezuelan Defense Minister Gen. Raul Baduel has said those new deals, plus the installation of factories to produce Kalashnikov rifles and ammunition, will cost about $3 billion.

The arms purchases have made Venezuela one of the top spenders on arms in Latin America and have made Russia the main supplier of weaponry to Venezuela.
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