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Venezuela opposed to U.S. missile shield in Europe - Chavez

RIA Novosti

28/06/2007 14:03 MOSCOW, June 28 (RIA Novosti) - Venezuela supports Russia's opposition to the deployment of a U.S missile shield in Europe, President Hugo Chavez said Thursday.

"The U.S. is planning to deploy its missile shield in Europe, and Russia is against it," Chavez said during his current visit to Russia, adding that Venezuela is in agreement with Moscow on the issue.

The U.S. proposed in January deploying 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a missile defense radar in the Czech Republic as part of a proposed missile shield designed to counter alleged threats from "rogue states" such as Iran and North Korea.

Russia, infuriated by the idea of a U.S. missile shield on the territories of its former ally states, has repeatedly condemned the plan, claiming that it could be a "destabilizing factor" and threaten Russia's national security. Moscow warned the West that "appropriate measures" would be taken in response.

"We support Russia [in its stance], we need Russia, which is becoming stronger day by day," he said, adding that Venezuela intended to continue cooperating closely with Moscow, including in the military sphere.

Russia has repeatedly stated that it would actively participate in the modernization of the Venezuelan armed forces until 2013.

In 2005-2006, Venezuela ordered weaponry from Russia worth $3.4 billion, including 24 Su-30MK2V Flanker fighters, Tor-M1 air defense missile systems, Mi-17B multi-role helicopters, Mi-35 Hind E attack helicopters and Mi-26 Halo heavy transport helicopters.

The country also purchased 100,000 AK-103 Kalashnikov assault rifles from Russia in 2005 and sent its fighter and helicopter pilots for training in Russia.

Russian business daily Kommersant said in June that during his visit to Russia, Hugo Chavez could finalize a deal to purchase Russian diesel submarines for the Venezuelan Navy. The contract reportedly is for the supply of five Project 636 Kilo-class diesel submarines and four state-of-the-art Project 677 Amur submarines.

The South American country has been vigorously pursuing the modernization of its armed forces to counter a possible U.S. blockade of its oil fields and to prepare for a direct military confrontation with Washington.

"If the United States attacks Venezuela, we are ready to die defending our sacred land," Chavez said Thursday.

He also said the world must change and adopt a multi-polar model of political development.

"If that does not happen, then humankind might disappear. We cannot allow that to happen. Either we defeat American imperialism, or imperialism defeats us," the Venezuelan president said.

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