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Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has hosted Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has hosted Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at his official country residence near Moscow, where the two discussed nuclear and military cooperation. (Russian warships head to the Caribbean - Image gallery)

"We are ready to look at the possibility of cooperation in the use of nuclear energy," the premier said after the meeting late Thursday.

Putin said relations between the two countries were developing in all areas, stressing that "we are ready to discuss military-technical cooperation."

Military ties between Moscow and Caracas have been growing as Russia asserts itself on the global stage and Venezuela seeks ties with countries sharing its opposition to U.S. influence on international affairs.

Chavez holds talks with President Dmitry Medvedev on Friday in the southern Orenburg region, where they will observe military exercises. Discussions are likely to focus on military-technical and economic cooperation, as well as international issues.

The offer of nuclear cooperation is likely to set alarm bells ringing in Washington, particularly after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov could not find time to discuss Iran's nuclear program with counterparts while at the UN General Assembly in New York this week.

Last October, Deputy Prime Minster Alexander Zhukov said Russia expected to sign an agreement with Venezuela on cooperation in the civilian nuclear sector, and the Venezuelan president has since confirmed his country seeks to develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes.

Iran has also been mentioned as a possible partner for Venezuela in the nuclear sphere, but the country is not thought to yet have a nuclear program.

Venezuela has become a major purchaser of Russian weapons, buying more than 50 combat helicopters, 24 Su-30MK2 fighters and 100,000 Ak-103 rifles.

Current contracts are worth about $4 billion and a Kremlin source said Thursday that Russia would grant Venezuela a $1 billion loan to buy Russian arms.


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