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Venezuela's Chavez thanks Colombia for not siding with Washington in arms purchases dispute

Venezuela's Chavez thanks Colombia for not siding with Washington in arms purchases dispute

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has thanked his Colombian counterpart, Alvaro Uribe, for refusing to side with Washington in a dispute regarding concerns about Venezuela's arms purchases.
Chavez also accused the United States of trying to pit the two South American nations against each other by suggesting that Venezuela's neighbors share Washington's worries over the recent arms acquisitions.
"I thank President Uribe for his courtesy and wisdom, and the response he's given to the comment that I made in responding to the empire," Chavez said on Wednesday at an international tourism exposition.
"The U.S. empire doesn't lose a chance to attack us and try to create discord between us," Chavez said. "That's one of the empire's strategies: Try to keep us divided."
Chavez _ one of Latin America's most outspoken critics of Washington's foreign policy in the region _ slammed U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Tuesday for suggesting that countries such as Colombia are concerned about the arms purchases and urged Uribe to clarify whether he shares Rumsfeld's worries.
Uribe refused to take sides in the diplomatic tiff during an interview earlier Wednesday with Santa Fe radio in Colombia, saying "Colombia has very good relations with Venezuela and with the United States."
Rumsfeld, attending a meeting of Western hemisphere military leaders in Nicaragua this week, told reporters on Monday that he understood why Venezuela's neighbors would be concerned by the buildup.
"Everybody knows that is a lie, but we must respond," Chavez said Wednesday.
Venezuela recently closed deals with Russia worth roughly US$3 billion (euro2.4 billion) for 24 Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets, 53 military helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles. Venezuela is also obtaining a license for the first Kalashnikov rifle factory in South America.
Relations between Caracas and Washington have been particularly tense since Sept. 23, when Venezuela's top diplomat was temporarily detained by officials at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.
U.S. officials have apologized for the incident and expressed hope that relations between the two countries can be improved.
Chavez also expressed confidence on Wednesday that Bolivia would overcome alleged plots aimed at ousting the leftist government of Evo Morales _ one of Venezuela's closest allies in Latin America.
"We are sure the democratic will of the Bolivian people and their leader, President Evo Morales, will overcome the ... internal and external threats against the brother republic of Bolivia," he said.
Since Morales took office in January, relations with Washington have been mired in mutual suspicion. In May, Morales claimed the United States was plotting to assassinate him. The following month he accused the U.S. of sending soldiers to Bolivia disguised as students and tourists.


Updated : 2021-04-14 15:53 GMT+08:00