World | Other World Stories

Chavez wants missiles and weapons to protect Venezuela

President Hugo Chavez said his government wants to develop short-range missiles to defend the country's airspace and purchase other arms to safeguard Venezuela from foreign attack.

  • AP
  • Published: 00:00 April 29, 2007
  • Gulf News

Caracas: President Hugo Chavez said his government wants to develop short-range missiles to defend the country's airspace and purchase other arms to safeguard Venezuela from foreign attack.

The leftist leader, who has repeatedly accused the United States of planning to invade his oil-rich nation, said Venezuela had test fired missiles on Thursday but it was not clear what kind of projectiles he was referring to.

"We're going to have a tremendous air defence system, and with missiles capable of reaching 200km," Chavez said during a televised speech. "[It] will convert Venezuela into a nation truly invulnerable to any external threat, invulnerable to any plan of aggression."

Chavez first mentioned the idea following a world tour last August, describing it as a system with missiles capable of shooting down approaching enemy warplanes. He said the military was looking at systems produced by Russia, Belarus and Iran.

The US State Department had no immediate comment.

Chavez denied Venezuela was engaged in an arms buildup or posed a threat to regional stability as Washington has suggested, saying Venezuela was simply modernising its military after years of neglect.

"They are necessary investments. We're not going to attack anybody," he said at the speech at a military academy in Caracas.

Chavez also announced spending of more than $561 million (Dh2,061 million) for factories to build automatic AK-103 assault rifles, munitions, and detonators; a facility to train pilots to fly Russian M-17, M-26 and M-35 helicopters, and another facility to overhaul F-5 fighter jets.

Venezuela was considering building a plant to maintain Russian helicopters, he added.

The government has also approved funds to set up bases in preparation for the launch of Venezuela's Simon Bolivar satellite in August 2008, Chavez said.

Gulf News