CARACAS: Russia has offered to help Venezuela set up its own space industry, including a satellite launch site, as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin makes his first visit to the South American country.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced Russia's offer before Putin arrived Friday, saying officials would discuss the possibility of setting up a "satellite launcher and a factory." Chavez didn't give details or say how much that might cost.
The two countries are also discussing weapons deals, some of which are new, Chavez said Thursday night in televised remarks, without giving details.
Chavez has built close ties with Russia in recent years and has bought more than $4 billion in Russian weapons since 2005, including helicopters, fighter jets and 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles.
Russian and Venezuelan officials also planned to sign new agreements for energy projects in Venezuela, as well as industrial, commercial and agriculture projects.
Chavez also reiterated that Russia will help Venezuela develop nuclear energy — a plan he has mentioned previously that has yet to take shape.
"We aren't going to make an atomic bomb, but we are going to develop atomic energy with peaceful aims," he said. Chavez, whose country is a major oil exporter and OPEC member, says "we have to prepare ourselves for the post-oil era."
After welcoming Putin at the airport, Chavez accompanied the Russian leader on a tour of a Russian Navy ship that is paying a port call in Venezuela.