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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

White House: We Shoot Down MiGs

OTTAWA -- The U.S. administration has expressed displeasure over Venezuela's reported plans to purchase sophisticated MiG fighters from Russia.

"Let me put it this way: We shoot down MiGs," a senior administration official said at a White House briefing Tuesday as President George W. Bush paid an official visit to Canada.

The official said the reported purchase of MiGs "should be an issue of concern to the Venezuelan people. Millions of dollars are going to be spent on Russian weapons for ill-defined purposes."

Pressed further, the official replied: "Let me put it this way: We shoot down MiGs."

The official did not elaborate, and the White House moved quickly to douse the provocative statement.

Sean McCormack, spokesman for the National Security Council, said the official "did not mean that literally."

The official meant to say that the purchase "would be an issue we would watch closely," McCormack said.

Venezuela, which is enjoying a windfall from high world oil prices, plans to buy large amounts of arms from Russia, leftist President Hugo Chavez said after talks with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow last week.

The Venezuelan leader, an outspoken critic of Bush, has long said the U.S. government backed a short-lived failed coup attempt against him in 2002.

During his trip to Moscow last week, Chavez thanked "President Vladimir Putin, the Russian government and the Russian people" for their support during what he called two years of aggression by the United States."

"They used to hold us by the throat like this, like a rabbit," Chavez said, shaking an imaginary rabbit with his fist. "We are free now, and we will continue to be free."

(AP, MT)