Azerbaijan will increase its defense spending by nearly one third next year to build up its strength in a long-running territorial dispute with Armenia, President Ilham Aliev said on Monday.
He told a government meeting that the military budget will grow by $300 million to $1.3 billion in 2008.
"The country will allocate funds to buy new hardware, weapons and ammunition, to create a powerful military-industrial complex and improve the professionalism of the military," Aliev said. "We are creating a powerful army."
The message of the 45-year-old president was primarily targeted at Armenia, the main backer of Azerbaijan's breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
"The insincere behavior of Armenian occupation forces, dragging out the negotiation process, forces us to devote greater attention to military issues," Aliev said. "Azerbaijan must be ready to liberate its lands by any means."
The loss of Karabakh and a large swathe of territory around it has become a major humiliation for oil-rich Azerbaijan, whose economy has been one of the world's fastest-growing in the past few years.