Venezuelan President Chavez Arrives In Belarus For Talks

MINSK, Belarus (AFP)--Venezuela's leader Hugo Chavez Wednesday landed in Belarus for talks with President Alexander Lukashenko, another fierce critic of the U.S.

"With our friend, President Lukashenko, we have seen the development of cooperation between Belarus and Venezuela," Chavez said on arrival at Minsk airport. "We hope for a twofold increase in trade-economic ties," he said.

The pair were expected to discuss military and energy cooperation that has seen Belarus develop oil fields in the hydrocarbon-rich Latin American state while offering to share its Soviet-era military know-how.

Chavez flew into Minsk after a two-day trip to Moscow, where he sought to boost ties to counteract what he described as the U.S. threat to Venezuela. His European tour was due to continue in Portugal and Spain.

Like Chavez, Lukashenko is treated as a pariah in Washington, which has described him as "Europe's last dictator."

After talks with Lukashenko Wednesday, Chavez was due to attend the opening of a square named after 19th-century Venezuelan revolutionary Simon Bolivar, a Lukashenko spokesman said.

A Belarussian plan to build an air defense system for Venezuela, announced by a senior Belarussian official in March, was likely to be on the agenda for talks, media reported.

Negotiations were also expected to focus on the countries' growing energy ties and a reported $500 million credit line that Belarus has requested from Venezuela, media reported.