June 27, 2007
(AP) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is starting a six-day tour of Russia, Belarus and Iran during which he plans to discuss the possibility of buying submarines and a missile-equipped air defense system.
Chávez was due to arrive Wednesday night in Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Chávez has expressed interest in the possibility of buying Russian submarines despite likely criticism from U.S. officials, who have voiced concern about Venezuela's recent military spending.
Venezuela has already purchased some $3 billion worth of arms from Russia, including 53 military helicopters, 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles, 24 SU-30 Sukhoi fighter jets and other weapons.
In Belarus, the Venezuelan leader will discuss a plan to buy an air defense system equipped with radar and antiaircraft missiles. The former paratrooper commander said this week that Venezuela's current short-range system was insufficient.
Chávez then travels to Tehran for talks aimed at further deepening ties with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, one of Venezuela's closest allies outside Latin America.