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Lavrov defends Russia arms sales to Latin America

MEXICO CITY, Feb 18, 2010

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has defended his country's sale of weapons in Latin America, saying that the sales had increased in recent years but still trailed US sales in the region.

"The delivery deals have risen in a serious manner" in a number of Latin American countries, he said during a joint press conference Tuesday in Mexico City with his Mexican counterpart Patricia Espinosa.

"But we are still behind the United States," added Lavrov.

Latin America is the biggest new market for Russian weapons exports, according to the London-based Institute for International Strategic Studies (IISS).

Russian arms sales to Latin American countries "are a question purely of economics, and not politics," Lavrov said.

He noted that Mexico is interested in acquiring helicopters for coastal surveillance to assist the country's ongoing battle against drug traffickers.

Russia is seeking to sign security-related deals with various Latin American countries and has already secured concrete projects with Cuba, Nicaragua and Colombia, he added.

"We want to develop this cooperation and to work with Mexico," he said.

The top Russian diplomat said his country approached the region with "pragmatism," rather than an ideological bent.

Russia, the second-biggest arms vendor in the world in 2008, has signed deals with Venezuela, Peru, Brazil, Mexico and Colombia and is in discussions with Bolivia, Uruguay and Ecuador, the IISS said in early February.

In recent years, Venezuela has purchased 4.0 billion dollars worth of military equipment from Russia.

Mexico was Lavrov's final stop in a Latin America tour that included visits to Cuba, Nicaragua and Guatemala.

Story from AFP
02/17/2010 10:25





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