Russia has agreed to help Venezuela draw up plans for a nuclear power plant, said President Hugo Chavez on Friday.

Atomic energy was one of many areas of cooperation discussed as Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin made his first visit to the South American country. “We're ready to start drawing up the first plan of a nuclear power plant, obviously with peaceful aims,” said Mr. Chavez.

Mr. Chavez had announced plans to turn to Russia for nuclear help in the past. He did not give details on how much Venezuela is prepared to invest, or how long it might take.

Russia and Venezuela also launched a joint business to tap vast oil deposits in eastern Venezuela, and Mr. Chavez said Moscow has offered to help Venezuela set up its own space industry including a satellite launch site.

Mr. Putin also pledged to keep selling arms to Venezuela. Mr. Chavez's government has already bought more than $4 billion in Russian weapons since 2005, including helicopters, fighter jets and 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles.

“We will continue supporting and developing Venezuela's defence capabilities,” said Mr. Putin, who headed back to Moscow after the one-day visit.

Lada cars

He noted Russia has agreed to lend Venezuela up to $2.2 billion for additional arms deals and said Venezuela was yet to use any of those funds. Mr. Chavez said the two governments were discussing arms deals but did not give details.

Officials signed 31 agreements during Mr. Putin's visit to deepen cooperation in areas from air transport to agriculture. Russia is sending more than 2,000 Lada cars to Venezuela, said Mr. Chavez. Mr. Putin said there were plans to eventually assemble the cars in Venezuela. — AP

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