November 06, 2008
CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez met with Russian officials on Thursday to discuss bilateral agreements on everything from nuclear energy to direct flights connecting Caracas to Moscow.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin headed a delegation of business leaders visiting Venezuela to discuss development plans prior to Russian President Dimitri Medvedev's visit later this month.
"On Nov. 26 something historic will happen here," Chavez told state television from the meeting in the presidential palace. "For the first time, a Russian president will visit Venezuela."
Under the socialist leader, Venezuela has strengthened ties with Russia _ purchasing more than $4 billion in weapons since 2005. A Russian naval squadron plans to visit Venezuela for military exercises this month, but both countries have insisted their intentions are peaceful.
"We have the possibility to form an alliance for the peaceful use of nuclear energy," Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said Thursday.
He said that the newly planned flight will connect Caracas directly to "the heart of Europe."
Sechin said that Russian aluminum company Rusal plans to build an aluminum-producing plant in Venezuela, and announced that Russia's state-run gas giant Gazprom will soon begin drilling for gas in the Gulf of Venezuela.
"In the coming days we will inaugurate the construction of a platform in the Gulf of Venezuela," Sechin said through an interpreter.
"We can say that our relations are taking on the characteristic of strategic partners," he said.
Chavez's government has said the joint venture with Venezuela's state-run oil company will kick off on Friday in Venezuela's gulf _ home to 27 trillion cubic feet of gas.
Some contracts for the 46 agreements will be signed during the Russian delegation's visit and others upon Medvedev's arrival, Carrizalez said.
The agreements will cover areas including mining, infrastructure, energy, telecommunications, science and technology, space, agriculture, education, and transportation, he said.
Associated Press Writer Jorge Rueda contributed to this report.