Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Chavez expected to discuss arms deals in Moscow

MOSCOW — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's visit to Russia is expected to focus on energy issues and potential weapons sales.

Russia has forged close ties with Venezuela as part of efforts to expand its global clout and counter U.S. influence in Latin America.

Venezuela hosted Russian warships and bombers for joint maneuvers last fall.

It also has become a top customer for Russian arms makers, purchasing more than $4 billion in Russian weapons since 2005, including Sukhoi fighter jets, helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles.

New arms contracts may be discussed during Chavez' s visit set to begin Wednesday. The talks also will likely focus on energy projects, such as a plan to jointly develop a huge oil deposit in Venezuela's Orinoco River region.

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