Saturday, April 03, 2010

DTN News: Putin Bolsters Oil, Defense Ties With Venezuela

DTN News: Putin Bolsters Oil, Defense Ties With Venezuela
* Chavez wants nuclear energy, space technology * Venezuela beefing up defenses with Russian arms * Russian companies to produce oil from Orinoco belt * Putin also meeting Bolivia's Morales Source: DTN News / Reuters By Darya Korsunskaya and Anthony Boadle (NSI News Source Info) CARACAS, Venezuela - April 3, 2010: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited Venezuela on Friday to discuss oil, defense and nuclear energy cooperation with Latin America's main leftist foe of the United States, President Hugo Chavez. They were to launch a $20 billion venture between Russian firms and Venezuelan state company PDVSA to pump 450,000 barrels a day -- almost a fifth of the OPEC member's current output -- from the vast Orinoco heavy oil belt. Putin's 12-hour visit provides a welcome lift for Chavez, who is facing domestic and international criticism for failing to solve Venezuela's economic woes and attempting to silence opposition to his 11-year rule. Putin was later to hold talks in Caracas with Bolivian President Evo Morales, along with Chavez the fiercest opponent of what they call U.S. "imperialism" in Latin America. Chavez said Moscow and Caracas would strengthen security ties to "continue increasing Venezuela's defense capability" and move ahead with cooperation on nuclear energy. "We are not going to build the atomic bomb but we will develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. We have to prepare for the post-petroleum era," Chavez said on Thursday. Facing a national electricity crisis that has caused widespread outages, Chavez's government is turning to Iran and Russia for help to develop nuclear power. Venezuela, South America's top oil exporter and a major U.S. supplier, has expanded military ties with Russia under Chavez, who says the United States could attack Venezuela for its oil reserves. Since 2005, Venezuela has bought $4 billion worth of Sukhoi jet fighters, Mi-17 helicopters and Kalashnikov assault rifles. Chavez received more than $2 billion in loans for more Russian arms during his eighth visit to Moscow in September, including T-72 tanks and the S-300 advanced anti-aircraft missile system. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed concern last year that the Russian weapons purchases by Venezuela could trigger an arms race across Latin America. Chavez says his growing arsenal is aimed at countering a planned increase in the U.S. military forces at bases in neighboring Colombia, Washington's closest ally in the region. ORINOCO OIL VENTURE A Russian Beriev amphibious plane to fight forest fires arrived on Thursday to help extinguish blazes that have ravaged the drought-scorched Avila mountain overlooking Caracas. The highlight of Putin's visit will be the rolling out of the joint venture to develop the Junin 6 field in the Orinoco, which will require $20 billion in investments over 40 years. Venezuela expects the venture to begin producing 50,000 barrels a day by the end of the year. The Russian consortium involved in Junin 6 are state giant Rosneft, private major Lukoil, Gazprom, TNK-BP and Surgutneftegaz. PDVSA holds a 60 percent stake in the project, and Caracas says the Russian firms will pay Venezuela a first tranche of $600 million on Friday -- out of an agreed total of $1 billion -- for the right to take part in the venture. To boost its sagging output from traditional wells, Venezuela needs foreign investment and technology to tap the heavy oil of the Orinoco belt that requires much upgrading to turn into lighter crude. Putin's first visit to Venezuela is seen as part of an effort by Moscow to help Russian firms expand abroad and own oil assets all over the world. Industry sources said Rosneft, Russia's largest oil producer, was seeking to buy stakes in four German refineries from Venezuela as part of the Kremlin's drive to encourage its companies' activities abroad. Rosneft said on Friday it was in talks with PDVSA, but that there were no proposals to acquire its German assets. Chavez hopes Russian cooperation will reach as far as the space industry. "We could even install a satellite launcher," he said on Thursday.
(Additional reporting by Dmitry Zhdannikov in Moscow; Charlie Devereux in Caracas; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

DTN News: Iran Used China Connection For Nuke Gear - Report

DTN News: Iran Used China Connection For Nuke Gear - Report Source: DTN News / Reuters (NSI News Source Info) - WASHINGTON, April 3, 2010: Western authorities are investigating whether an Iranian firm acquired valves and vacuum gauges used to enrich uranium through the representative of a Chinese firm, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday. The report appeared as the United States sought China's support for a new round of sanctions to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear activities are peaceful and legitimate. Purchase of the equipment could violate export sanctions. The newspaper cited a diplomat in Vienna as saying the International Atomic Energy Administration and western intelligence agencies were investigating. The probe was sparked by a Jan 14 email to IAEA. It alleged an Iranian firm, Javedan Mehr Toos (JMT), acquired the French-made valves through an intermediary who represented Zheijiang Ouhai Trade Corp, a subsidiary of Jinzhou Group, based in China, said the report. Western officials told the newspaper that JMT has worked since last year to acquire nuclear materials on behalf of an Iranian firm, Kalaye Electric Co, involved in centrifuge research and development, part of Iran's work toward uranium enrichment capacity. Kalaye is on anti-proliferation list maintained by the U.S. Treasury Department, which bars trade with specified persons, businesses and entities to prevent the spread of nuclear arms. Neither JMT nor the Chinese business are listed. A Treasury spokeswoman would not confirm the report. "On any given day, Treasury is actively working dozens of cases ... involving hundreds of potential targets for designation, but to comment on any particular investigation or pending designation would threaten the integrity and effectiveness of our actions," said the spokeswoman. A senior diplomat in Vienna said many of the valves used in uranium enrichment facilities are subject to export controls. "They are needed in big numbers, at least in thousands, for installations like Natanz," said the diplomat, referring to Iran's main enrichment plant. The Wall Street Journal said it was not known how many valves allegedly were acquired by JMT or how significant they were in Iran's nuclear work. It said the maker, KD Valves-Descote, formerly was owned by the U.S. conglomerate Tyco International (TYC.N). Both firms said they had not been contacted by investigators and did not know how the materials could have reach Iran.
(Writing by Charles Abbott, editing by Alan Elsner) (Additional reporting by Sylvia Westall in Vienna)

DTN News: UK Says Oman Intends To Buy Eurofighters

DTN News: UK Says Oman Intends To Buy Eurofighters Source: DTN News / Reuters (NSI News Source Info) LONDON, UK - April 3, 2010: Oman has indicated that it intends to buy an unspecified number of Eurofighter warplanes, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's spokesman said on Friday. The possible deal followed three years of talks between Brown and the leaders of Oman, the spokesman said without giving details of the size or timing of any sale. Media reports in late 2008 said Oman was in talks with BAE Systems (BAES.L) to buy 24 Typhoons worth at least 1.4 billion pounds ($2.13 billion). The British company makes the Eurofighter alongside Italian group Finmeccanica (SIFI.MI) and European aerospace group EADS (EAD.PA). The engines are supplied by a group led by Rolls-Royce (RR.L) and Germany's MTU Aero Engines (MTXGn.DE). A BAE spokesman said the company had no immediate comment, but would release a statement later on Friday. If confirmed, the deal would give a boost to the Eurofighter project after years of uncertainty over whether European countries would agree to buy the full number of jets they signed up for. Saudi Arabia bought 72 Eurofighter Typhoons in 2006 and India is considering buying the aircraft for its $11 billion fighter jet contract. (Editing by Mike Nesbit)

DTN News: Pentagon Boosting Afghanistan 'Eyes In The Sky'

DTN News: Pentagon Boosting Afghanistan 'Eyes In The Sky' Source: DTN News / Reuters By Andrea Shalal-Esa (NSI News Source Info) WASHINGTON, U.S. - April 3, 2010: The Pentagon is focused on getting more trucks, surveillance equipment and other military equipment into Afghanistan to prepare for what will be a critical summer in the war, Defence Undersecretary Ashton Carter said on Friday. Carter, head of Pentagon acquisition, technology and logistics, said the success of the war in Afghanistan would depend largely on being able to get weapons and support services to the U.S. troops headed to the land-locked country, which he described as "the last place where you would like to be fighting a war."
A commercial plane flies past the Pentagon as security watch from the roof in this September 11, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Jason Reed/Files "This summer is going to be very critical. If we don't get ourselves in there and get set... we can't have success," he told a conference hosted by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, As part of that effort, Carter said he was increasing 20-fold the number of airships hovering over Afghanistan, providing "eyes in the sky" to troops on the ground. Equipped with sophisticated cameras and the ability to stream images to U.S. bases on the ground, the airships would help track any activity that could jeopardize the troops, including the burying of roadside bombs. At the same time, the very visible presence of the airships would keep potential attackers on their guard, Carter said, calling the airships a more affordable way to maintain surveillance than more-expensive unmanned airplanes, which are also being deployed in Afghanistan in large numbers. Carter did not say which airship model would be added. Lockheed Martin Corp builds a 35-meter tethered helium-filled airship known as Persistent Threat Detection System that has been in use by the Army since 2004. Nine of the airships are being used in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lockheed is building eight more airships under a $133 million one-year contract it won in October 2009, and is in talks with the Army about additional orders. Another aerostat used by the military is made by Aerostar, a unit of South Dakota-based Raven Industries Inc, which last month said it had a tethered airship backlog of more than $10 million. It said the airships would be paired with surveillance equipment and deployed in Afghanistan. The unmanned airships will cut the need for risky on-foot missions by staying in the air much longer and feeding data to commanders through on-board cameras and sensors. These sensors could also "rewind" after an explosion to find who planted the bomb and where they went. Carter said the airships would be under the control of local forward operating bases, not commanders far away, making them a good tool on a fairly localized basis. He said the Pentagon was also accelerating delivery of hand-held metal detectors and ground-penetrating radars, as part of an urgent drive to reduce the number of casualties from road-side bombs or improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The military was also deploying about 1,000 new armoured trucks built by Oshkosh Corp per month, double the initial rate, Carter said. He said Defence Secretary Robert Gates had told him to "make sure that we are doing all we can do" to prevent the large number of IED-related troop deaths and injuries that marked the early years of the Iraq war. The Pentagon was also examining several models of unmanned helicopters that could be used to get supplies to troops without using dangerous convoys on the road, he said. At the same time the military is dramatically increasing its presence in Afghanistan, it was also dealing with the drawdown in Iraq, a major logistical challenge, Carter said. He said the military had already removed 2.2 million pieces of military equipment from more than 350 forward operating bases in Iraq but needed to deal with 1.2 million more pieces by August, deciding if they should return to the United States, stay in Iraq or go elsewhere for use in future conflicts.