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Monday, August 07, 2006

Venezuela To Acquire Anti-Aircraft Missile System

Mon, 7 Aug 2006, 01:39

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Aug. 3 the nation would acquire a missile-based anti-aircraft defense system to repel a possible foreign invasion at a time of continued tense relations with the United States.

The announcement came just days after Chavez agreed to buy some $3 billion in weapons and military equipment from Russia on a two-week world tour following U.S. moves to block Venezuelan military purchases.

"We are going to install in Venezuela a system of aerial defense ... (with) equipment that detects a target from 200 kilometer (124 miles) away and fires heat-guided missiles," Chavez said during a speech in western Venezuela. "We’re going to shield Venezuela."

Chavez did not say when or from where Venezuela would purchase the equipment, but said he had seen such equipment during stops in Belarus and Iran.

Russian media in July reported that Chavez was seeking to acquire missiles during his visit to Moscow, but Defense Minister Raul Baduel later denied the reports.

Chavez, a former soldier who has promised a socialist revolution to end poverty in the world’s No. 5 oil exporter, has beefed up military spending and bolstered armed forces reserves on accusations the Bush administration is plotting an invasion.

The United States has blocked attempts by Venezuela to buy aircraft from Spanish weapons producer EADS-CASA, and moved to prevent similar acquisitions from Brazil’s Embraer. The Bush administration accuses Chavez, a close ally of Cuba’s ailing leader Fidel Castro, of seeking to destabilize regional democracy.

Chavez describes the United States as a decadent empire and has developed alliances with U.S. foes including Iran and Belarus. Despite the diplomatic tensions, Venezuela continues to supply about 12 percent of U.S. oil imports.

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