Venezuelan President in Belarus on Trade Mission

By VOA News

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez is in Belarus for talks with President Alexander Lukashenko on trade.

On arrival Wednesday in Minsk, Mr. Chavez referred to his Belarusian counterpart as a friend, and said he hopes to use his one-day visit to double bilateral trade and improve other economic ties.

Both men are outspoken critics of the United States.

The Venezuelan leader flew to Minsk from Moscow, where he and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev witnessed the signing of three contracts expanding the presence of Russian oil and natural gas companies in Latin America.

During the two-day visit, Mr. Medvedev said it is still possible for Russia and Venezuela to form a natural gas cartel with the aim of ensuring energy security.

Mr. Medvedev said an OPEC-style gas cartel would not be aimed at penalizing either the United States or European countries that have criticized the idea.

Mr. Chavez said a strategic energy and arms alliance between Venezuela and Russia will help guarantee Venezuelan sovereignty, which he says is threatened by the United States.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.