Thursday, October 05, 2006

Hugo Chavez calls Rumsfeld a 'dog of war'

CARACAS: President Hugo Chavez called US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld a "dog of war"' on Tuesday, saying the defence chief has no business suggesting neighbouring countries are concerned about Venezuela's arms purchases.

Chavez said it's disingenuous for Rumsfeld to say he knows of no country that is threatening Venezuela, and he insisted that the US is a threat.

The Venezuelan leader called on Colombian president Alvaro Uribe to clarify whether he shares Rumsfeld's worries about Venezuela's recent military acquisitions, including helicopters, fighter jets and assault rifles.

"If this man is saying that my neighbours are worried because the weapons that Venezuela is acquiring could go to the leftist guerrillas, I need to know, president Uribe, if you have some type of worry regarding this," Chavez said. "It should be you who says it, not the dog of war." In his televised speech, Chavez also chuckled as he called Rumsfeld "little dog" and "Mr Dog."

Rumsfeld, attending a meeting of Western hemisphere military leaders in Nicaragua this week,said on Monday that he understood why Venezuela's neighbours would be concerned by the build-up.

Venezuela recently closed deals with Russia worth roughly US$3 billion (euro2.4 billion) for 24 Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets, 53 military helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles.

It is also obtaining a licence for the first Kalashnikov rifle factory in Latin America and will also install Chinese-made radar and an advanced air-defence system equipped with anti-aircraft missiles capable of shooting down approaching enemy warplanes.