Friday, September 11, 2009

Venezuela's Chavez draws closer to Moscow

Thu Sep 10, 2:53 pm ET | Reuters

BARVIKHA, Russia (Reuters) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez cemented a closer alliance with Russia on Thursday, recognizing two pro-Russian rebel regions of Georgia as independent and securing arms supplies and loans in return.

Chavez's move to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia is a rare diplomatic success for Russia, which has tried for over a year to persuade its allies to follow its lead and treat the two small regions as sovereign. Only Nicaragua had agreed so far.

"Venezuela from today is joining in the recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia," Chavez told President Dmitry Medvedev through a translator at the Russian leader's residence outside Moscow.

Caracas would start the process of establishing diplomatic relations with them soon, he added.

The rest of the world views the two regions, which threw off Georgian rule in the early 1990s and have run their own affairs since, as an integral part of Georgia. The issue has become a key sticking point in relations between the West and Russia.

President Dmitry Medvedev thanked Chavez, who is visiting Moscow, for his support. Shortly afterwards he said Russia would supply tanks and other weapons sought by Venezuela.

"We will supply Venezuela the weapons that Venezuela asks for," Medvedev said after their talks.

"Why not tanks? Without question, we have good tanks. If our friends want our tanks, we will deliver them."

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