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Colombia is seeking to expand military-technical ties with Russia
Colombia is seeking to expand military-technical ties with Russia in an apparent attempt to counter the growing military might of neighboring Venezuela, a Russian business daily said on Tuesday.

Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos will visit Russia on June 1-10. According to the Kommersant newspaper, the 46-year-old politician personally contacted the Russian leadership requesting the visit.

"It's about time our countries intensified relations," Kommersant quoted Santos as saying. "There is a lot we can do together."

During his visit, Santos will most likely attempt to convince Moscow to revise its policy in Latin America, mainly in regards to arms trade.

Colombia is worried about the Hugo Chavez regime's military buildup, boosted by Russia's arms exports.

In the last three years, Venezuela has bought 24 Su-30MK2V fighters, Tor-M1 air defense systems, 31 Mi-type helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles from Russia. Caracas is also planning to conclude several contracts with Russia next month on the purchase of military equipment worth at least $2 billion, including transport planes, submarines and attack helicopters.

Relations between traditional rivals Colombia and Venezuela seriously deteriorated after the fiercely anti-American Hugo Chavez came to power in Venezuela in 1999.

Chavez has branded Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, the United States' main ally in South America, "Washington's poodle" and warned that war could break out if Colombia struck on Venezuelan soil.

Bogota has repeatedly accused Caracas of supporting rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The region was brought to the verge of armed conflict at the beginning of March when U.S.-ally Colombia bombed a FARC rebel camp in Ecuador, killing 24 rebels. Venezuela and Ecuador then sent thousands of troops to the Colombian border, but a peace deal was soon reached.

At present, Columbia is determined to maintain the balance of forces in the region even if it means buying Russian weaponry. In exchange, Bogota hopes to convince Moscow to reduce arms exports to Venezuela, Kommersant said.

According to the paper, Colombia is willing to order attack and transport helicopters, Sukhoi fighters and armored vehicles.

Francisco Santos is one of Colombia's most influential politicians and the likely successor to President Alvaro Uribe.

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