Russia offers Chavez nuclear help amid US tensions
Saturday, 27 September 2008

AFP, ORENBURG, Russia - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was to meet Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev on Friday after Russia risked Washington's wrath by offering the fierce US foe help developing nuclear energy.

The two were to meet in the city of Orenburg after hawkish Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told Chavez in Moscow on Thursday that Russia was "ready to consider the possibility of cooperation in nuclear energy."
 
The countries have boosted ties in recent weeks following sharp US criticism of Russia's incursion into Georgia, with Moscow dispatching long-range bombers and warships to Venezuela for exercises near US waters.
 
Putin made the nuclear offer after Russia this week delayed talks with the United States and other powers on fears Iran is developing nuclear weapons, concerns critics say have been exacerbated by civilian nuclear technology provided by Moscow.
 
Chavez called for increased ties with Russia as a counter-balance to US power.
 
"Today like never before all that you said on the multi-polar world becomes reality. Let us not lose time," Chavez told Putin. "The world is fast developing geopolitically."
 
In deployments not seen since the Cold War, Russia this month sent two long-range bombers to Venezuela for exercises and has dispatched a flotilla of warships from the Arctic base of Severomorsk to Venezuela, near US waters.
 
Putin thanked Chavez for the "warm welcome" given to the planes and said South America was growing in importance for Moscow.
 
"Latin America has become an important chain-link in creating a multipolar world, and we will pay more attention to this vector," he said.
 
Russia's relations with the United States are in a deep chill, most recently over the brief war in Georgia last month -- a conflict where Chavez was one of the few world leaders to support Moscow.
 
During that war, Washington angered Moscow by holding naval exercises near its Black Sea coast. And when the war ended, the United States used warships to deliver humanitarian aid to Georgia.
 
Chavez and Medvedev were expected to touch on military and energy cooperation in Friday's talks, a Kremlin official said.
 
The Kremlin on Thursday announced that Russia had granted Venezuela a one-billion-dollar (682-million-euro) loan to buy Russian arms.
 
Venezuela has signed deals for 4.4 billion dollars' worth of Russian arms since 2005, including fighter jets, tanks and assault rifles.
 
Russia's Kommersant daily reported last week that Venezuela was planning to purchase anti-aircraft systems, armoured personnel carriers and more combat aircraft.
 
Chavez arrived in Russia from China and will continue on to France as part of a world tour ahead of local elections in Venezuela in November. It is his third trip to Russia since June of last year.

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