RUSSIA has signed a $US2.9 billion ($3.8 billion) arms deal with President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela risking a confrontation with the US, which has imposed an arms embargo on the South American country.

The outspoken Mr Chavez, who has claimed that America wants to assassinate him and who has pledged aid to victims of Hurricane Katrina and cheap heating fuel for London’s poor, told reporters in Moscow on Thursday that his country could develop its own nuclear program.

“Maybe some day we will start using nuclear energy,” he said, according to Interfax news agency. He did not specify when or how he might obtain nuclear power, but his ambitions will rile a Bush Administration already concerned by Iran’s nuclear program.

See full article here.

Also, from SANA News Agency on Tuesday:

Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed on Tuesday that his country gives great care to develop the Syrian-Russian dialogue regarding the regional and international urgent issues.

” Russia has strong relations with Syria which is considered the most important country in the Arab world, and will establish an active cooperation with her in the field of confronting the international terrorism.” Putin said during receiving credentials of the Syrian Ambassador to the Russian Federation Dr. Hassan Risha.

I’m inclined to believe that the foregoing is not just a pretty statement, especially in light of Russia’s establishment of a permanent naval base in Tartus, Syria — “that would give it a Mediterranean outpost and represent a major shift in the regional security balance of the Eastern Mediterranean, the Levant, and the Middle East as a whole.”  See article about the naval base here.