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New gas find another reason to boost defence: Chavez

President Hugo Chavez said a recent huge natural gas find off Venezuela's Caribbean coast underscores the need to bolster the Andean nation's defences against US "imperialism".

world Updated: Sep 15, 2009 12:52 IST
EFE

President Hugo Chavez said a recent huge natural gas find off Venezuela's Caribbean coast underscores the need to bolster the Andean nation's defences against US "imperialism".

Spain's Repsol YPF said last Friday that the Perla I well, discovered in partnership with Italy's Eni, could contain between 7 trillion and 8 trillion cubic feet of gas.

Prior to the discovery, Venezuela ranked eighth worldwide in gas reserves, with 180 trillion cubic feet. The country is also the world's fifth-leading oil exporter and a key supplier of crude to the US.

Venezuela's vast energy riches have forced Caracas to buy arms to defend its resources from "imperialist efforts" to control them, Chavez said on Sunday on his weekly television show.

The leftist head of state's recent foreign tour included a stop in Russia, which is selling Venezuela missiles with a range of 300 km.

Chavez thanked Moscow for providing $2.2 billion in credits for the purchase of the missiles and 92 T-72 tanks.

"We are not hiding anything" about the arms purchases, Chavez said.

The president announced the acquisition of the weapons a month before his trip, saying that "the important thing is that Russia offers us payment facilities and credits".

"I don't want to spend a cent on arms, but the US forces us to do so," Chavez said Aug 5, noting that the US government has failed to provide spare parts for the F-16 fighters Washington sold Venezuela in the 1980s.

After banning all US arms sales to Venezuela, Washington has also intervened to block attempts by other nations to sell Caracas armaments containing US technology.

During his 10 years in office, Chavez has made a number of large arms purchases from Russia, including 24 Sukhoi-30 fighter-bombers, 50 helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles.