Chavez backs Russian recognition of Georgia regions
PUERTO ORDAZ, Venezuela
PUERTO ORDAZ, Venezuela (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez backed Russia's recognition of two breakaway regions of Georgia on Friday, making Venezuela only the second nation to support Moscow's stance.
Russia's neighbor and close ally Belarus has expressed similar support for Moscow's decision to back the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia after a brief war between Russia and Georgia this month.
"Russia has recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. We support Russia. Russia is right and is defending its interests," Chavez said during a televised speech from an oil field along the Orinoco Oil Belt.
He stopped short of saying Venezuela recognized the regions.
Earlier on Friday, Russia said a security group of former Soviet states that it leads will discuss the recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia at a meeting in Moscow next month.
Russia's recognition of the two regions, after chasing out Georgian troops trying to retake South Ossetia, plunged relations with the West to new lows.
Russia faced increased diplomatic isolation over its actions this week, with Asian allies failing to offer support and France saying EU leaders were considering sanctions.
Chavez, a fierce critic of the United States who has strengthened ties with Moscow in recent years, says Washington is using its ally Georgia to weaken a resurgent Russia.
Chavez has bought billions of dollars of weapons from Russia and supports its increased role on the world stage as a counter-balance to the United States.
Chavez frequently clashes verbally with Washington, but the United States still buys the bulk of the OPEC nation's oil.
The leftist president's foreign policy is based on forging alliances to counter American influence, although critics say he often simply appears to to take a stance because it is the opposite of the U.S. position.
(Reporting by Enrique Andres Pretel; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel, editing by Saul Hudson)
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