Chavez to build ties with allies

CARACAS: President Hugo Chavez says Venezuela's ties with nations like Russia and China have gained importance as the U.S. moves to expand its military presence in Latin America.

Chavez says there are now "much more significant reasons to accelerate cooperation plans with allied countries."

The U.S. is negotiating an agreement with Colombia to use seven bases there for anti-drug operations. Chavez calls the plan a threat to the region, but Colombian and U.S. officials say there is no reason for concern.

Chavez said Saturday he plans to visit Russia and the former Soviet republic of Belarus within the next month. He added that Venezuela hopes to triple oil shipments to China over the next four years to 1 million barrels a day.