MOSCOW, July 24 (RIA Novosti) - President Hugo Chavez says Venezuela will at least double the number of tanks in its military and continue strengthening its defense capability, the state-run ABN news agency reported.
"We are going to buy more tanks to have an armored force at least twice the size of what we have today," Chavez said on national television on Thursday.
"We need to strengthen our forces on land, at sea, and in the air and we are going to continue doing that," he added.
The leftist president's announcement comes shortly after neighboring Colombia offered to accommodate more U.S. troops at its air and naval bases, which Chavez said was a serious threat to Venezuela's national security.
The Venezuelan army currently has more than 80 outdated French-made AMX-30 main battle tanks and several dozen AMX-13C light tanks.
Chavez, who has spent billions of dollars on weapons from Russia in recent years, confirmed that Caracas and Moscow were in talks to purchase Russian T-90 main battle tanks among other military equipment.
Between 2005 and 2007 Russia signed 12 contracts worth more than $4.4 billion to supply arms to Venezuela, including fighter jets, helicopters and Kalashnikov assault rifles.
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The current contract portfolio of Russian arms exporters is worth about $46 billion. Annual exports total $15 billion, and this will ensure uninterrupted deliveries for the next three years, even in the worst-case scenario. The list of the main buyers of Russian weapons is unlikely to change drastically.