TRIPOLI, (Reuters) -- Russian warships called at Libya's main port on October 11 on their way to conduct joint naval exercises next month with vocal U.S. critic Venezuela, Western diplomats and eyewitnesses said.
The rare visit by the Russian warships to Tripoli port was the latest signal of re-warming of ties between Libya and Russia -- its main backer during the Soviet Union era.
The warships, led by the nuclear-powered heavy missile cruiser "Peter the Great," left their home base on September 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 programme. Last month U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi 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.
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.