Venezuela awaiting talks on Russian jet fighters - 19 May, 2006 - News

A Venezuelan diplomat said his country is awaiting talks with Russia on buying new Russian jet fighters, a Russian news agency reported Friday, days after the United States imposed an arms embargo on the oil-rich South American country. Interfax also cited Ambassador Alexis Navarro Rojas as saying that President Hugo Chavez was seeking to visit Russia sometime in the coming months.

"We are awaiting a reply from the Russian side. President Chavez likes visiting Russia ," Rojas was quoted as saying by Interfax. Venezuelan pilots had already tested out Su-27 and Su-30 fighters, Rojas said. "They have simply fallen in love with the aircraft. They have also tried piloting the Su-35. Now we are waiting for talks to begin," he was quoted as saying.

If completed, the deal would be the latest in a series of sizable Russian arms purchases by Venezuela : Caracas is buying 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles from Russia over Washington 's objections and last month, a top Venezuelan army commander said the military plans to buy nearly three dozen military helicopters to be used in defense and anti-drug patrols.

Washington on Monday banned arms sales from the United States to Venezuela an action that signaled a further deterioration in relations with Venezuela . The United States sold Venezuela less than US$34 million ( Ђ 26.6 million) worth of military equipment last year, a relatively tiny amount, mostly for spare parts for cargo planes, reports the AP.