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U.S. voices concern over Venezuelan arms purchases from Russia

RIA Novosti


WASHINGTON, April 1 (RIA Novosti) - The U.S. has reiterated its concerns over Venezuelan arms purchases from Russia, a U.S. State Department official has said.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez will discuss military and economic cooperation, including a $2.2 billion loan to buy Russian arms, during his first visit to the South American country on Friday.

During his visit to Caracas, Putin will also oversee the delivery of the last four Russian Mi-17 Hip helicopters out of the total of 38 under a 2006 contract.

"I think we've voiced our concerns, if you will, but our opinions about Venezuela's need for these kinds of defense systems previously from the podium," Acting Deputy Department Spokesman Mark Toner said.

"Beyond that, Venezuela, Bolivia, any country, is entitled to pursue its own bilateral relationship with any other country, clearly. So - but just beyond, kind of, questioning the need for Venezuela to have such a robust defense system, no comment," he added.

During his visit to Moscow in September, Chavez said Venezuela would buy 92 T-72 tanks and an unspecified number of Smerch multiple rocket launchers from Russia, among other military inventory.

Since 2005, Venezuela has bought $4 billion worth of Russian weaponry, including warplanes, helicopters, and Kalashnikov assault rifles.

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