Thursday, June 14, 2007

I guess someone doesn't trust Washington anymore

Venezuela's Chavez to finalise Russian submarines deal

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is expected to finalise a deal on buying up to nine Russian submarines during a visit here later this month, a Russian newspaper reported on Thursday.

Caracas has already ordered five 636-type diesel submarines and four of a new model of diesel submarine, the 677E Amur, the Kommersant broadsheet said, quoting unnamed sources in the ship-building and arms export sectors.

Chavez may have to settle for the older 636 submarines for the time being as the new 677E Amur has not yet been presented to Russia's own navy, a source at the arms export agency Rosoboronexport said.

"To start off with they were insisting on only the Amurs but were then persuaded to take the 636 vessels," the source told Kommersant.

The paper said Chavez planned to visit Russia on June 29, less than a year after a visit last July, the paper said.

If it goes ahead, the deal is likely to become a "new irritant in relations between Moscow and Washington," the paper commented.

Venezuela has become a major buyer of Russian arms in recent years, angering the United States, which worries about Chavez's anti-American tone.

Since 2005 Caracas has spent 3.4 billion dollars (2.6 billion euros) on arms from Russia, including 24 fighter planes, 35 military helicopters, air defence systems and 100,000 kalashnikov rifles, the paper said.

Venezuela wants the submarines in order to overcome a possible US naval blockade, the paper said.

The deal "could become a new irritant in relations between Moscow and Washington," Kommersant said.

Between 2004 and 2006 Russia supplied eight of the 636 submarines to China and is now building two such submarines for Algeria, Kommersant added.

Original article posted here.

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