Saturday, June 30, 2007

100,000 Kalashnikov rifles for Whom Exactly?

Chavez to head to Russia, Belarus, Iran, then China in latest bid to oppose USA.
Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez travels this week to Iran, Russia andBelarus, then China -- all countries which have found themselves at loggerheads recently with the United States. Chavez departs Tuesday for his week-long tour, from June 26 to July3, defiantly insisting that he will purchase Russian submarines and possibly an air defense system from Belarus, despite vocal objections from Washington. Chavez, who views himself as Bush's arch-enemy, will be cultivating relations with each of the regimes, in an apparent bid to drive aneven deeper wedge with between the United States and its adversaries.
"The war of resistance is the weapon with which we are defeating andwill defeat the threat of US imperial war," Chavez said Sunday presiding over a military parade, dressed in full military uniform. "We've launched into a new type of global war with the US on one side and the rest of the world on the other side. “Each of the countries on Chavez's itinerary has locked horns withWashington in recent weeks over conflicts that have yet to beresolved. Chavez has said he hopes to put the "finishing touches" on an agreement to purchase from Belarus an integrated air defense systemwith a 200-300-kilometer range (125-200 miles).
Earlier this month, US President George W. Bush renewed sanctions against hard-line Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko and nine others deemed obstacles to democracy in Belarus. Bush accused the regime of human rights abuses, undermining democracy, illegally detaining and secretly holding dissidents andengaging in public corruption. Relations between Russia, China, and the United States, meanwhile,are at a dangerous post-Cold War low due to political, energy, andsecurity differences. Flush with petrodollars, Chavez said last week he might purchase someRussian submarines when he meets with Putin -- a deal observers saidcould chill the planned Putin-Bush summit.
Media reports in Moscow this month said Chavez wanted to buy as manyas nine submarines to protect shipping lanes for key oil exports. In 2006 Venezuela signed more than three billion dollars in contractswith Russia to buy 53 Mi-24 armored helicopter gunships, Sukhoi 30fighter planes and 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles. Meanwhile Washington's already frosty relations with Tehran also hita new low, as the international community campaigned to pressure Iran to dismantle its controversial nuclear program. The United States, which broke diplomatic ties with Iran in 1979,also is demanding the safe return of four Iranian-American citizens whom Tehran has charged with spying.
It is not yet known what Chavez plans to do in Iran, which is acharter member of Bush's "axis of evil" troika of alleged globaltrouble-makers that included North Korea and Iraq under the late Saddam Hussein. Tehran in recent weeks has implemented a crackdown on its nationals deemed too close to the West. In an address to some 15,000 young members of his new party now beingset up, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, Chavez last weeksaid some had the idea his trip to Russia and then China wouldcomplicate US-Russian Chinese relations.
"In the United States, they say my trip to Moscow and Beijing is a concern," Chavez said Saturday, accusing Washington of meddling where it doesn't belong. "These relations are highly strategic, and are tied up with our security, defense, and overall development," he said.
During Sunday's military parade, Chavez brandished a Russian-designedAK-47 assault rifle proclaiming: "If it weren't for Russia and China we'd be almost weaponless today. "We must recognize the Russian and Chinese governments bravery for not caving in to the pressures of the dying US empire that intended to disarm us all."

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