Managua, Nicaragua The recent military build-up in Venezuela by U.S. nemesis President Hugo Chavez has other countries in the region worried that the weapons could end up in the hands of terrorists, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Monday.
"I can understand neighbors being concerned," said Rumsfeld, who is attending a meeting of Western hemisphere military leaders in Managua this week.
Asked whether he believes Venezuelan officials' contention that the weapon buys are strictly for defense and not a threat to the region, Rumsfeld said, "I don't know of anyone threatening Venezuela - anyone in this hemisphere."
Venezuela's defense minister Gen. Raul Isaias Baduel, who is also attending the meeting, said Monday that his country's recent military spending spree wasn't "an arms race," despite Washington's protests.
Chavez, however, has repeatedly charged that United States is planning to invade his country, a claim American officials dismiss as preposterous. And Chavez said Sunday that he's heard the Bush administration is plotting to assassinate him or topple his regime.