Zapatero defends arms sales despite US fears

30th March 2005, Comments 0 comments

30 March 2005, CIUDAD GUYANA, Venezuela- Spain's premier defended the sale of Spanish military ships and aircraft to Caracas in the face of US concerns.

30 March 2005

CIUDAD GUYANA, Venezuela- Spain's premier defended the sale of Spanish military ships and aircraft to Caracas in the face of US concerns.

Appearing at a press conference with host Hugo Chavez, Brazil's Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said the eight naval ships and 12 aircraft Spain plans to sell Venezuela are intended for transport and coastal defence.

Zapatero said despite fears from the US, the Bush administration had nothing to worry about.

The ships and planes will aid in the battle against drug trafficking and in coping with natural disasters, he added.

"In no case do those items have any offensive nature," Zapatero said, insisting that no one will be upset or alarmed by the transaction.

Uribe, for his part, said Venezuela's acquisition of the Spanish ships and aircraft might contribute to interrupting the flow of arms to Colombia's leftist guerrillas and right-wing militias, thereby advancing the cause of peace in the strife-torn Andean nation.

Zapatero seconded those comments and said that Uribe - Washington's closest ally in Latin America - knows Spain is a steady partner in Bogota's "titanic and exemplary effort to achieve peace and end terrorism."

Venezuela's Chavez, who threatens to displace Fidel Castro as the Bush administration's bete noire in the region, said no one can be alarmed by Caracas's plans to procure armaments and materiel, whether from Spain or other nations.

He stressed that the Spanish aircraft in question were for transport, not combat, while noting that Venezuela purchased its existing fleet of F-16 fighter-bombers from the United States.

Though US officials have been expressing concern for months over Chavez's planned arms purchases, they have not focused on the Spanish deals but rather on Venezuela's intention to acquire assault rifles and military helicopters from Russia.

Earlier on Tuesday, Spain's leader underscored what he said was the substantial weight of Latin America in "the new geopolitics," and said his nation is the region's natural preeminent ally.

"Many eyes around the world are focused on the present and future of Latin America, which we must write together," Zapatero said at the summit.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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