Venezuela Calls Russian Su-35 Fighters Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“WorldĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s BestĂ˘â‚¬Âť, Considers Purchase
Created: 17.05.2006 11:34 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 11:50 MSK
A high ranking Venezuelan general said on Tuesday, May 16, that the Latin American country is considering a replacement of its U.S.-built F-16 multi-role fighter jets with Russian Su-35s.
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“We are considering procurement of RussiaĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s Su-35 fighter aircraft to replace F-16s, after the United States banned weapons exports to Venezuela,Ă˘â‚¬Âť Venezuelan General Staff official General Alberto Muller Rojas said, quoted by RIA Novosti. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“At the moment the Su-35 is worldĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s best multi-role fighter.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
The United States announced a ban on arms sales to Venezuela on Monday, May 15. The U.S. State Department accused the South American country of having an intelligence-sharing relationship with Iran and Cuba, both of which the U.S. says are state sponsors of terrorism. In return Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has accused the United States of breaching an agreement to supply parts for VenezuelaĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s F-16s.
Rojas, a military advisor close to Chavez, said the issue had previously been discussed with Russia, but that the White HouseĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s decision to stop supplying spare parts for U.S. aircraft had given fresh impetus to the talks. Rojas said he had proposed to Chavez that Venezuela sells its 21 F-16 jets to a third party or shares it with Cuba as a gift. He added that Iran or Chile could be potential customers of the planes, as both countries had F-16s and spare parts in inventory.
A U.S. State Department spokesman said on Monday that the United States would not allow Venezuela to sell the planes to Iran. Under U.S. arms-sales contracts, Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“you canĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t transfer these defense articles, in this case, F-16s, to a third country,Ă˘â‚¬Âť State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“And I would expect that even if such a request were made that [permission] would not be forthcoming from the U.S. Government.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
The U.S. and Venezuela signed a contract on the F-16s in 1982, and Venezuela does not have the right to re-sell its F-16s under it. But Rojas said the U.S. had broken the agreement unilaterally, so Venezuela considered itself free not to comply with its obligations.
Venezuela is RussiaĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s major arms trading partner in Latin America. The country has already signed contracts for 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles, 33 combat helicopters and has been considering a purchase of Russia fighter jets for a while.