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Venezuela Claims To Have Built First Drone

President Hugo Chavez Says Exports Will Begin 'Soon'

At a meeting Wednesday with military and defense officials, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said that the country has manufactured its first UAV in partnership with Iran, Russia, and China. Chavez said that he expects the aircraft to be made available "soon" on the international market.

The aircraft are reportedly for both military and civilian use, according to the French news service AFP. In a speech broadcast on Venezuelan radio and television, Chavez (pictured) reportedly said that the aircraft are not designed to carry weapons. They will have a 60 mile range up to an altitude of 9,000 feet with a flight time of about 90 minutes.

While not discounting the report out of hand, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that Chavez and the Iranians "make lots of extravagant claims." She told the Washington press corps that the State Department will be carefully monitor the situation in light of international sanctions in place against Iran.

A Venezuelan official said that the parts for the UAV are manufactured in that country and assembled by engineers who had been trained in Iran. It reportedly measures about 13 feet long with a 10 foot wingspan. Venezuela claims that it can transmit photos and videos in real time, and is being modified for night flights.

Cavim, the state-run military industrial company manufacturing the drones, also makes weapons and munitions in partnership with Russia. It reportedly has other drones in development.

FMI: www.state.gov

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