VENEZUELA TO BUY 40 HELICOPTERS FROM RUSSIA

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MOSCOW, October 5 (RIA Novosti) - Venezuela intends to buy 40 helicopters for military and other purposes from Russia. Vice President Jose Rangel broke the news after a meeting of a high-level bilateral intergovernmental commission.

Mr. Rangel said the first batch of 10 helicopters would be supplied in 2-3 months' time, while the rest of helicopters will be supplied according to schedule and when necessary, according to Mr. Rangel.

Mr. Rangel said the helicopters would be used, above all, to protect borders, fight fires and address social needs which included transporting injured and sick individuals and delivering food to calamity areas.

Mr. Rangel refuted reports circulated in the Venezuelan and American media that the only purpose of the Venezuelan delegation's visit to Moscow was purchasing military equipment.

Mr. Rangel said they had discussed issues of cooperation in a wide spectrum of areas. Among other issues, the commission discussed cooperation in the trade and economic sphere, the energy sector and the sphere of technology, including research in outer space, in tourism and sports.

Mr. Rangel also emphasized that Venezuela was free to buy military equipment from any country. The vice president added that Russian-made equipment was of high quality and had long been used in Latin America.

Russia and Venezuela are expected to finish bilateral talks on Russia's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO), Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov told reporters after the meeting.

"Completing bilateral talks on Russia's accession to the WTO is extremely important to us. We will hopefully prepare relevant documents for signing during Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's visit this autumn," said Mr. Zhukov.

Russia and Venezuela are expected to sign an agreement for the construction of aluminous works in Venezuela, according to Mr. Rangel.

Mr. Rangel said the two countries were willing to sign the agreement as soon as possible. However, Mr. Rangel is yet to remove certain administrative barriers when he is back in Venezuela.

Mr. Rangel said the project promised major investment, something the Venezuelan authorities attached great importance to.

Mr. Zhukov said up to $1 billion might be invested in the construction project.

Mr. Zhukov also said neither Russia nor Venezuela were satisfied with their current commodity turnover. Last year it was $32 million.

However, the commission's first meeting showed that the two countries had good cooperation prospects, according to Mr. Zhukov. "The presidents of our countries are holding dialogue," said Mr. Zhukov. The deputy prime minister also noted that Russian companies took an interest in the Venezuelan market and were engaged in a series of major projects in the country.

Hydropower engineering and oil production are another two major spheres of cooperation, which involve large Russian companies, LUKoil among them, according to Mr. Zhukov.

"We have agreed that the Russian and Venezuelan governments would support all bilateral projects," said Mr. Zhukov. He emphasized that Venezuela had recognized Russia as a market economy and thereby removed many of cooperation barriers.

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