Russian warships visit Libya on way to Venezuela

Rare visit latest signal of warming ties


Russian warships, bound for Venezuela for joint naval exercises next month put in Saturday at the Libyan port of Tripoli for refueling.

The rare visit by the Russian warships to the port of Tripoli was the latest signal of warming ties between Libya and Russia, Librya's main backer during the Soviet era.

The warships, led by the nuclear-powered heavy missile cruiser Peter the Great, left their home base on Sept. 22 in a show of strength by Moscow as it forges links with Caracas.

Libya was seen as a rogue state by Washington until it agreed to give up a weapons of mass destruction program.

Last month U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met Libyan leader Moammar Qaddhafi in Tripoli, the first such visit in 55 years.

Libya wants to expand ties with Russia which it sees as counterbalance to U.S. influence in the Mediterranean region.

Vladimir Putin, when Russian President, visited Libya in April to strengthen energy ties with the OPEC member and discuss the possibility of Russian cooperation in building an atomic power plant in Libya.

Putin said Libya was also seeking to buy Russian weapons.

Russia and Venezuela announced their joint military exercises last month amid high tensions between Moscow and Washington and Russian irritation at the presence of U.S. warships near Russian waters in the Black Sea.

The exercises with Venezuela will be closely watched by Western navies as the first such projection of Russian power close to U.S. shores since the demise of the Soviet Union.