Boomberg: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez dismissed European press reports that he would sign an agreement with Iran to develop nuclear weapons when he visits the Central Asian country next week. By Theresa Bradley
June 23 (Bloomberg) — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez dismissed European press reports that he would sign an agreement with Iran to develop nuclear weapons when he visits the Central Asian country next week.
“We don’t need an atomic bomb, because we already have one: it’s called the Venezuelan people,” Chavez said in a televised speech to thousands of supporters at a political rally in Caracas. “That has the force of 100 atomic bombs.”
Chavez, who makes his fifth state visit to Iran next week after stops in Russia and Belarus, has consistently defended what he calls Iran’s right to develop a peaceful nuclear energy program, which is the subject of sanctions by the United Nations Security Council. The panel has ordered Iran to stop enriching uranium, a necessary ingredient for nuclear power and weapons; Iran has refused.
He and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are expected to discuss energy and trade ties, building on deals for a $2 billion energy joint-venture fund and $1.5 billion Venezuelan petrochemical plant, which were hashed out during Ahmadinejad’s last visits to Caracas in September and January.
Last year, Iran and Venezuela were the world’s fourth- and sixth-largest exporters of oil, respectively.
Chavez, who likens his “Bolivarian” revolution in Venezuela to Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979, speaks often of the need for developing nations to unite against the U.S. “empire,” and has built a stable of allies who are also at odds with the United States.
Chavez today accused the international media of trying to “sabotage” his planned trip to Russia next week by spreading the idea that Moscow’s friendship with Venezuela is impeding U.S.-Russian affairs.
“They’re trying to intervene in relations between Russia and Venezuela, which are deep,” Chavez told an arena of cheering supporters today. “What we’re going to talk about in Moscow with (President Vladimir) Putin is of high of strategic importance to our nation.”
Chavez yesterday said his government may buy a fleet of Russian-made submarines to protect the more than 500,000 square kilometers of territory that Venezuela has in the Caribbean Sea.
Venezuela spent $4.3 billion on arms in 2005 and 2006, more than China, Pakistan or Iran, according to a U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency report. More than $3 billion of that was spent in Russia, where Venezuela has signed contracts to buy 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles, 50 military helicopters and 24 Su-30 jet fighters, the report said.