Venezuela, Russia may hold joint naval exercises

Other News Materials 8 September 2008 03:35 (UTC +04:00)

President Hugo Chavez said Sunday that Venezuelan and Russian ships could soon hold joint naval exercises in the Caribbean ї a move that would likely raise concerns in  Washington.

" Russia's naval fleet is welcome here," Chavez said on his weekly broadcast program. "If it's possible, we'll stage an exercise in our Caribbean waters."

Russian naval vessels are due to call on Venezuelan ports in late November or December, Chavez said.

The socialist leader ridiculed any concerns U.S. officials might have, saying, "Go ahead and squeal, Yankees."

Diplomatic relations between Caracas and Washington have been tense for years. U.S. officials have warned that Chavez poses a threat to democracy, while Chavez has emerged as Latin America's most outspoken critic of U.S. foreign policy in the region.

Chavez has repeatedly said the U.S. Navy's Fourth Fleet, which is set to renew operations in the Caribbean, is a threat to  Venezuela.

The Fourth Fleet was active during World War II but was dissolved in 1950. The U.S. Navy announced earlier this year that it would re-establish the fleet to direct naval forces in the Caribbean and Latin America.

The fleet will help maintain security in the region while carrying out humanitarian missions and counter-drug operations, according to U.S. officials, AP reported.