The Associated Press
July 23, 2008
CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuela's government denied on Wednesday that President Hugo Chavez invited Russia to open a military base in his country, disputing a report by Russia's Interfax saying that Russian troops were welcome in the South American nation.
"This is totally false," Venezuela's government said in a statement following the release of the Interfax report. "At no moment did the head of state make such an offer."
Chavez said that military cooperation with Russia is proceeding "at full speed" as his government considers new purchases Russian fighter jets - Su30s - and parts for an integrated anti-aircraft system.
Chavez arrived in Russia on Tuesday to negotiate a number of deals involving weapons purchases, oil exploration and the creation of a joint financial institution.
He refused to estimate the size of the arms deals when asked. "Don't worry about the amounts - that's our task," Chavez said.
Venezuela, which spent US$4 billion on international arms purchases between 2005 and 2007, mostly from Russia and China, has a defense budget of US$2.6 billion, according to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies