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    Russia must develop weapons with foreign partners - Putin

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    Russia should seek to develop weapons together with foreign partners, the president told a commission responsible for defense sector cooperation with other countries.

    MOSCOW, March 20 (RIA Novosti) - Russia should seek to develop weapons together with foreign partners, the president told a commission responsible for defense sector cooperation with other countries.

    India and China remain leading importers of Russian armaments, accounting for some 80% of the country's total weapons exports. But Russia has been looking to expand its presence on arms markets in Latin America and the Middle East, and currently supplies weapons to more than 60 countries.

    "Our primary objective is to find new forms of cooperation," Vladimir Putin said. "The priority here is certainly joint weapon development and their subsequent serial production both for the domestic and export markets."

    During Putin's visit to New Delhi in late January, Russia and India agreed to jointly develop a fifth-generation fighter aircraft and produce aircraft by India's HAL corporation and Russia's Sukhoi concern.

    India and Russia have a long history of military cooperation, which goes back almost half a century. The existing Russian-Indian military-technical cooperation program, which lasts until 2010, lists up to 200 projects worth about $18 billion in total, according to Russia's defense ministry.

    The Russian president said servicing of exported Russian military equipment needed to be improved. "Another goal is to set up joint servicing ventures," he said, citing as an example a joint post-Soviet venture, UZROSAVIA, servicing helicopters.

    On January 18, Putin signed a decree, which made state-run Rosoboronexport the only arms exporter in the country.

    "The other 22 companies in the defense sector should focus on how to speed up production and quality of spare parts and units, and provide maintenance services," Putin said.

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