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. Chavez boasts nuclear cooperation with Russia
CARACAS, Nov 8 (AFP) Nov 09, 2008
President Hugo Chavez said Saturday he was looking forward to signing nuclear cooperation agreements with Russia during an upcoming visit to Venezuela by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

"Atomic energy. Technology for Venezuela. We are going to have atomic reactors, and they'll soon accuse us of building 100 atomic bombs," Chavez told a rally of supporters a day after a Russian delegation left Caracas where it prepared for Medvedev's visit.

Chavez said he would sign nuclear cooperation agreements "for peaceful purposes" when Medvedev visits Caracas toward the end of November.

"It has to be said," Chavez said about his non-aggressive plans for nuclear energy, adding that the only "giant and infinite atomic bomb" Venezuela posessed was "the morale and consciousness" of the Venezuelan people.

"You are our atomic bomb," he said, apparently trying to forestall the barrage of international criticism his nuclear deal with Russia will likely trigger.

The United States has already slammed Chavez for his arms deals with Moscow and considers a nuclear Venezuela under Chavez an ominous possibility.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was first to propose nuclear cooperation with Venezuela when Chavez visited Moscow in September.

Friday, the visiting Russian delegation of politicians and some 60 businessmen signed with Chavez 15 cooperation agreements in the financial, industrial, mining, aerospace, energy and telecommunications sectors.

Medvedev's visit will coincide with the arrival of a fleet of Russian warships that includes the nuclear-powered cruiser Pyotr Veliky (Peter the Great) for maneuvers in the Caribbean.

It would be the first time that Russian warships sail into the region since the end of the Cold War.

Venezuela and Russia were also due to finalize new arms purchases, including tanks and planes, according to sources from both countries.

They have signed 4.4 billion dollars in bilateral arms deals since 2005, including radars, 24 Sukhoi-30 planes, 50 helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikov automatic rifles.

Chavez on Saturday said Venezuela's alliance with Russia "has not come easily.

"It cost us a lot, but we're finally getting there," he said, adding that both countries have now become "strategic allies."

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