Russia, Venezuela to develop nuclear, military cooperation: Putin

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Moscow, Sep 26 (UNI) Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has said Russia would develop nuclear and military-technical cooperation with Venezuela.

''We are ready to look at the possibility of cooperation in the use of nuclear energy,'' Putin said after his talks yesterday with the visiting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, at his official country residence, near Moscow.

The relations between the two countries were developing in all areas,'' he stressed.

Military ties between Moscow and Caracas have been growing as Russia asserts its global role as a superpower and Venezuela seeks ties with countries sharing its opposition to US influence on international affairs.

Mr Chavez will hold talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev today in the southern Orenburg region, where they will watch military exercises.

The military-technical and economic cooperation, as well as international issues are high on the agenda of their talks.

Analysts said Mr Putin's offer of nuclear cooperation with Venezuela is likely to alarm Washington, particularly after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov could not find time to discuss Iran's nuclear programme with his counterparts while at the UN General Assembly in New York earlier this week.

Recently, Deputy Prime Minster Alexander Zhukov said Russia expected to sign an agreement with Venezuela on cooperation in the civilian nuclear sector and Mr Chavez confirmed his country seeks to develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes.

Venezuela has become a major purchaser of Russian weapons, buying more than 50 combat helicopters, 24 Su-30MK2 fighters and 100,000 Ak-103 rifles.

Current contracts are worth about four billion dollar and a Kremlin source said that Russia would grant Venezuela a one billion dollar loan to buy Russian arms.

UNI XC SLD CS1622

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