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RIA Novosti

MOSCOW, February 14 (RIA Novosti) - The United States is outraged in connection with Russian plans to sell its weapons to Venezuela. The Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) of Colombia might receive Russian assault rifles, deputy State Department spokesman Adam Earley noted. The United States suspects Venezuela of aiding FARC which has been fighting the Colombian Government for many years now, writes Vedomosti.

On February 11 Russia and Venezuela stated their intention to abide by their contract in spite of US pressure. Vice-President Vicente Rangel even speculated that US discontent could be explained by his country's decision to buy Russian, rather than US, weapons.

President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela visited Russia in October 2004, with the concerned parties signing the afore-mentioned arms-sale contract back then. The entire contract costs about $150 million, a Rosoboronexport source noted. Apart from 100,000 AK-101 and AK-103 assault rifles, the Venezuelan armed forces are to get ten helicopters (five Mil Mi-24s, four Mi-17s and one Mi-26 chopper), as well as related spare parts and ammunition.

Moreover, both countries continue to negotiate the sale of an even larger arms batch worth some $500 million that could include Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29SMT air-superiority fighters.

Claims to the effect that FARC might lay its hands on Russian assault rifles seem far-fetched, Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Center for Analyzing Strategies and Technologies, noted. In his opinion, FARC which waxes rich as a result of illicit drug trafficking can afford to buy just about any firearms. It does not have to conclude any transactions with Venezuela's generals, Pukhov stressed. According to Pukhov, the latest US statement aims to increase the Venezuelan leader's international isolation and to thwart additional Russian arms deliveries to that country (MiG-29SMT warplanes, in the first place).

Washington is quite irritated over that Russian-Venezuelan military-technical cooperation because such cooperation serves to enhance Moscow's political ties with the Chavez regime, Boris Shmelev, director of the Center of Comparative Political Studies, agrees. In his words, Presidents Vladimir Putin and George Bush will apparently discuss this issue during their February 24 Bratislava summit.

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