Belarus leader meets with Venezuela's counterpart

Chavez, a former army lieutenant colonel who has accused the United States of seeking to invade his oil-rich South American nation, was greeted warmly with hugs and smiles by President Alexander Lukashenko at the presidential palace in Minsk, along with an honor guard and military band.

"Here, I've got a new friend and together we'll form a team, a go-ahead team," Chavez said before going in for one-on-one talks. "I thank you, Alexander, for solidarity and we've come here to demonstrate our solidarity."

Lukashenko returned the praise, calling Chavez "a man of extensive knowledge."

During the 24-hour visit, Chavez was slated to tour a military academy and the "Stalin Line" - a network of World War II-era defense installations restored by Lukashenko's government. A Belarusian foreign ministry spokesman said that seven agreements on military-technical cooperation, trade and economic ties would be signed. Bilateral trade was just under US$16 million ( Ђ 13 million) in 2005.

During a visit to Minsk last month, Chavez's older brother Adan described the United States as a "common enemy" and proposed forming a common front against the United States, as well as holding an international conference to set up a court to try U.S. President George W. Bush.

After arriving at the Minsk airport Sunday, Chavez told reporters: "I have come here to conclude a unity pact. Here we see a model of the social state that we are beginning to create. We feel ourselves to be brothers."

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