US critical of Russia-Venezuelan arms deal

Other News Materials 23 July 2008 01:55 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - The United States on Tuesday criticized a 2- billion-dollar Russian package of arms sales to Venezuela, saying the weaponry pursued by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez goes beyond the country's defensive needs.

"We've repeatedly communicated concerns with Russia about Chavez's arms build-up in the past, and we're going to continue to do so," Gonzalo Gallegos, a US State Department spokesman said.

"We continue to question ... whether such acquisitions are in line with Venezuela's legitimate defense needs," Gallegos added.

Chavez met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow on Tuesday to finalize the deal. They did not disclose details, but the Russian newspaper Kommersant placed the value at 2 billion dollars. Kommersant said the deal includes 20 air-defence systems, 12 military transport planes and 24 fighter jets.

Chavez has frequently accused the United States of plotting to invade Venezuela and says he needs to forge a strategic relationship with Russia for his country's self-defence. The United States denies it has plans to attack Venezuela.