Saturday, June 23, 2007
Venezuelan could buy a fleet of submarines as part of its broad-ranging military purchases, President Hugo Chavez said a week after reports his government would buy submarines from Russia. "People are making a big fuss about how we might buy some submarines - why not?," Chavez said during a televised meeting with supporters. "I do not know if we are going to buy them, but if we buy them no one should be alarmed." Defense Minister Raul Baduel last week denied domestic and international media reports that Venezuela was preparing to buy at least five submarines from Russia, where Chavez is scheduled to visit next week. Venezuela over the last year has purchased 100,000 Kalashnikov AK-103 rifles, 24 Sukhoi fighter jets and 53 Russian helicopters as part of a $3 billion long-term arms contract.The deals came as the US banned arms sales to Venezuela and refused to approve commercial licenses that would allow other countries to sell US-manufactured military technology to the South American nation. US officials accuse Chavez of launching a military spending spree and question his motives for beefing up Venezuela's armed forces. Chavez says he is seeking to replace aging equipment and accuses the United States of intervening in Venezuelan affairs by trying to limit its access to arms. In the coming weeks he is also scheduled to visit Iran and Belarus, countries also openly at odds with the United States.