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Venezuela’s defense minister has signed a deal to buy Chinese radar systems, the latest in a series of military purchases by the government of President Hugo Chavez.

The Chinese-made long range surveillance radars will be used by Venezuela’s air force, defense officials said yesterday.

Defense Minister Adm. Ramon Orlando Maniglia and Qu Huimin, the vice president of China’s Electronics Import and Export, signed the accord last week.

The deal also includes the purchase of “other air security equipment” such as radios, and the possibility of renting a satellite communications system, the Defense Ministry said in a statement. The cost of the deal was not disclosed. Venezuela has stepped up purchases of military equipment this year, agreeing to buy Russian rifles and military helicopters.

U.S. officials have accused Chavez of backing Colombian guerrillas with weapons – charges Chavez denies.

The former army paratrooper, staunchly anti-U.S., has made a priority of fortifying Venezuela’s military, saying troops are ready to face “any foreign attack.”

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