Source AP ©

Belarus plans to sell arms to Venezuela

A Belarusian official said Monday that the country planed sign several deals to supply more than US$1 billion (EUR720 million) worth of arms to Venezuela.

Security Council chief Viktor Sheiman said the contracts had received the blessing of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who visited the ex-Soviet nation last month.

The deals would be signed later this month, Sheiman said, providing no further details.

Belarusian defense plants build armored vehicles and other weapons, and its military has big arsenals of Soviet-made jets and tanks.

Sheiman also said Belarus would receive lucrative contracts for oil exploration in Venezuela.

Venezuela also has purchased some US$3 billion (EUR2.2 billion) worth of arms from Russia, including 53 military helicopters, 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles, 24 SU-30 Sukhoi fighter jets and other weapons. The United States has voiced concern about Venezuela's military spending.

On his recent trip to Belarus, Chavez called for a strategic partnership with the ex-Soviet nation, saying his Belarusian counterpart is a "brother-in-arms" and lamenting the pressure he said the United States was putting on Minsk and Caracas. The United States and other Western nations have dubbed Belarus "Europe's last dictatorship" because of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko's relentless crackdown on dissent and free media.

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