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Mexico Seeks Better Russia Military Ties
MEXICO CITY (AP) -- President Vicente Fox says his country hopes to expand military cooperation with Russia, assembling some Russian helicopters in Mexico and importing a mixed civilian-military factory.
Speaking in the north-central state of Hidalgo on Wednesday, Fox said the arms issue would be "a principal topic" in talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who arrives Monday.
Fox said possible projects include "the installation of a large maintenance center for helicopters" as the first step in a plan to assemble helicopters in the Gulf Coast state of Veracruz.
The Mexican president said he also hoped to sign an agreement with Putin for a plant that would assemble heavy machinery "for the military industry, heavy machinery for the construction industry, heavy and transport machinery for various uses that occur in a dynamic economy."
Fox said that factory was intended for Ciudad Sahagun, about 50 miles northeast of Mexico City.
The president mentioned the arms plans during a speech dedicated to regional economic development. He did not elaborate on the projects.
Mexico largely avoided Russian equipment during the Cold War.
But since the collapse of the Soviet Union, it has begun to incorporate some Russian equipment - notably transport helicopters - which is less expensive than that from the United States or most European suppliers.
Mexico's air force and navy use at least 56 Russian-made transport helicopters, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
Retired Gen. Luis Garcias Magana, a former federal congressman, said Mexico will have to carefully study which Russian material should be made here "because the investment is very high."
"Weapons and materiel such as helicopters - that is complicated because you not only have to bring the factory but also bring experts, as they did with former Soviets in Cuba, to train Mexican personnel," he said.
Marco Vicenzino, a Latin America specialist at the IISS Washington office, said the projects were not likely to create a problem with the United States.
"You're not talking missiles here," he said. "I don't see any major threat. It just gives competition for the market."
© 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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