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. Russia, Venezuela in new pacts, 'counterweight' to US cited
ORENBURG, Russia, Sept 26 (AFP) Sep 26, 2008
Russia said Friday it would bolster ties with Venezuela as the leaders of the two states met amid what the Kremlin described as efforts to forge a "solid counterweight" to the United States.

"Today we will sign a series of agreements to strengthen our cooperation," President Dmitry Medvedev said as he greeted his fiercely anti-US Venezuelan counterpart, Hugo Chavez.

The Russian president did not provide details on the agreements to be signed but described them as "multi-faceted" and stated: "I mean cooperation in the economic and military spheres."

The leaders were expected to sign two specific energy agreements at their meeting, a Kremlin spokeswoman said.

Medvedev's spoke after Chavez, making his third visit to Russia since June 2007, met outside Moscow late Thursday with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who offered Russian help for developing nuclear power in Venezuela.

Chavez's visit to Russia came amid tension in the Russian-US relationship that soared in the wake of the conflict last month between Russia and Georgia, a US ally geographically situated in a vital energy transport area.

Speaking through a translator, Chavez thanked his "friend" Medvedev and reiterated his backing for Russia's recent actions in Georgia.

"I would like to use this occasion to offer our full, modest but completely solid support for Russia's actions" in the Caucasus, said Chavez, adding: "We understand how the people of South Ossetia were attacked" by Georgia.

Earlier this month, Russia dispatched a pair of Tu-160 strategic bombers to Venezuela followed by a naval flotilla led by the nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser Peter the Great, one of the largest warships of its kind.

The Russian warships were to take part in joint manoeuvres with the Venezuelan navy in a part of the world that the United States has traditionally regarded as its backyard.

"Soon, at the start of November, we will begin quite large military manoeuvres," Medvedev said. "All of this shows the strategic nature of our relations."

The United States has said it will be watching the exercises very closely.

In a statement released ahead of the Medvedev-Chavez meeting in this city located in the southern Ural mountain region, the Kremlin said Russia and Venezuela have in the past worked to offset US global and regional power.

Moscow and Caracas have cooperated in "efforts to find a solid counterweight to US influence," the Kremlin statement said, adding that Venezuela "has called for a widening of our presence in the region."

Addressing Putin at the powerful Russian prime minister's country residence late Thursday, Chavez said US global dominance was on the wane.

"Today like never before all that you said on the multi-polar world becomes reality. Let us not lose time," Chavez told Putin. "The world is fast developing geopolitically."

During the Georgia war, Washington angered Moscow by holding naval exercises near its Black Sea coast. And when the war ended, the United States used warships to deliver humanitarian aid to Georgia.

Prior to Chavez's arrival in Russia, the Kremlin announced that Moscow had agreed to grant Venezuela a one-billion-dollar (682-million-euro) loan to buy Russian arms.

Venezuela has signed deals for 4.4 billion dollars' worth of Russian arms since 2005, including fighter jets, tanks and assault rifles.

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