BUENOS AIRES, Argentina, May 17 (RIA Novosti, Yury Nikolayev) - Venezuela is considering replacing its contingent of U.S.-built F-16 multi-role fighters with Russian Su-35s, a high ranking Venezuelan general said.
"We are considering procurement of Russia's Su-35 fighter aircraft to replace F-16s, after the United States banned weapons exports to Venezuela," Venezuelan General Staff official General Alberto Muller Rojas said. "At the moment the Su-35 is world's best multi-role fighter."
The United States announced a ban on arms sales to Venezuela May 15. The U.S. State Department accused the South American country of having an intelligence-sharing relationship with Iran and Cuba, both of which the U.S. says are state sponsors of terrorism.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has accused the United States of breaching an agreement to supply parts for Venezuela's F-16s.
Rojas, a military advisor close to Chavez, said the issue had previously been discussed with Russia, but that the White House's decision to stop supplying spare parts for U.S. aircraft had given fresh impetus to the talks.
Rojas said he had proposed to Chavez that Venezuela selling its 21 F-16s to a third party or share it with Cuba as a gift. He added that Iran or Chile could be potential customers of the planes, as both countries had F-16s and spare parts in inventory.
A U.S. State Department spokesman said Monday that the United States would not allow Venezuela to sell the planes to Iran.
Under U.S. arms-sales contracts, "you can't transfer these defense articles, in this case, F-16s, to a third country," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said. "And I would expect that even if such a request were made that [permission] would not be forthcoming from the U.S. Government."
The U.S. and Venezuela signed a contract on the F-16s in 1982, and Venezuela does not have the right to re-sell its F-16s under it. But Rojas said the U.S. had broken the agreement unilaterally, so Venezuela considered itself free not to comply with its obligations.