Venezuela considers selling U.S. F-16s, possibly to Iran

Venezuela's military is considering selling its fleet of U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets to another country, possibly Iran, in response to a U.S. ban on arms sales to President Hugo Chavez's government, a Venezuelan military official said Tuesday.

Gen. Alberto Muller, a senior adviser to Chavez, told The Associated Press he had recommended to the defense minister that Venezuela consider selling the 21 jets to another country.

Muller said he thought it was worthwhile to consider "the feasibility of a negotiation with Iran for the sale of those planes."

Even before the United States announced the ban on arms sales Monday, Washington had stopped selling Venezuela sensitive upgrades for the F-16s.

Muller said officials have been considering options for replacing the F-16s for some time. He said the military was considering Russian Sukhoi Su-35 jet fighters, "which is the best jet fighter there is in the world right now."

Chavez has previously warned he could share the U.S.-made F-16s with Cuba and China and look into buying new jets from Russia or China because he said Washington was not supplying parts for the planes as agreed.

U.S. officials disputed that accusation, saying they were living up to their commitments under the deal.

U.S. officials have said Venezuela is bound under the 1982 contract to consult with Washington before transferring any F-16s to another country.

"The recommendation that I'm making to the minister, and which I will make to the president at the appropriate time, is that the (F-16s) be sold to a third party because if they aren't complying with their part of the agreement, we don't have any obligation to comply with our part," Muller told the AP.