Russia Grants Credit For Venezuelan Arms Purchases, Chavez Says


(CNN) -- The Russian government has approved $2.2 billion in credit to Venezuela to finance arms purchases, a news release from the office of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Monday.

The credit will go toward the purchase of 92 Soviet-era T-72 tanks and short-range missiles with a 55-mile (90-kilometer) reach, the release said.

Venezuela also will purchase an anti-aircraft weapons system with a range of 185 miles (300 km).

"Thanks to the support of the Russian president and the prime minister, an agreement was reached ... that will make possible the increase of our defense capacity," Chavez said in the release.

Chavez's announcement provided more details and the financing for the arms agreement with Russia, which first became known last week.

"Venezuela doesn't have plans to invade anybody, nor to be harassing anybody. This armament is necessary for national defense," Chavez said in the release.

The new weapons will improve moral among Venezuela's troops, he said.

Some Venezuelan troops will also begin to receive training in Russia, the statement said.

The planned arms purchases come at a time when Venezuela is at odds with Colombia over an agreement that the neighboring country is negotiating with the United States that would give American troops access to Colombian military bases.

Chavez has said that a U.S. presence in the region is threatening and dangerous to Latin America.

U.S. Department of State Spokesman Ian Kelly on Monday said the United States was concerned about Venezuela's arms purchases.

"We have concerns in general about Venezuela's stated desire to increase its arms buildup, which we think poses a serious challenge to stability in the Western Hemisphere," Kelly said. "What they are looking to purchase and what they are purchasing outpaces all other countries in South America. And of course, we're concerned about an arms race in the region."

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