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    Chavez sets off on 11-day foreign trip

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    Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez starts on Monday an 11-day foreign trip that will take him to Russia, Belarus, Syria, Algeria, Libya and Iran.

    MEXICO CITY, August 31 (RIA Novosti) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez starts on Monday an 11-day foreign trip that will take him to Russia, Belarus, Syria, Algeria, Libya and Iran.

    "The purpose of the trip is to strengthen political, energy and military ties with these countries," Chavez said at a news conference on Sunday.

    Chavez's first stop is Libya, where he will attend celebrations to mark the 40th anniversary of the Libyan Revolution and participate in an African Union summit. He will then head on to Algeria and Syria.

    He then goes on to Iran.

    "Iran is for us a strategic partner, with whom we have recently concluded a range of deals in the spheres of defense, energy, industry and technology," Chavez said, adding that Venezuela was ready to "strengthen" its ties with the Islamic Republic.

    From Iran, Chavez flies to Russia for talks with the Russian leadership.

    "We have signed off on major oil projects with Russia," he commented. "This concerns not only extraction, but also the processing of heavy crude into light crude and its transportation to ports. This requires colossal financial output, and we are actively working on this."

    He also said that he would discuss military cooperation and the peaceful use of atomic energy in Moscow.

    However, he denied that Venezuelan military cooperation with Russia was related to U.S. plans to deploy military bases in Colombia.

    "There have been attempts recently to link the deployment of the American bases in Colombia with our cooperation with Moscow. But these are entirely different things," he said.

    "Does Russia really have hegemonistic plans for the Latin American continent?" he asked rhetorically.

    The last stop on his tour will be Belarus.

     

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