US criticises Russia-Venezuelan arms deal

July 23rd, 2008 - 7:29 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, July 23 (DPA) The US Tuesday criticized a $2-billion 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 Tuesday to finalize the deal. They did not disclose details, but the Russian newspaper Kommersant placed the value at $2 billion. Kommersant said the deal includes 20 air-defence systems, 12 military transport planes and 24 fighter jets.

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

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