Some F-16s delivered by US, says Kasuri

Friday, 22 June 2007, 07:00 Hrs
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Washington: Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri has said that the US has already delivered an unspecified number of F-16 fighter planes to Pakistan but declined to say how many.

"Some F-16s have already been delivered while others are being delivered," he told a briefing in Washington, Pakistani daily Dawn reported Friday.

The foreign minister said that Pakistan had requested affiliated weapon systems with the F-16s and "those are also being delivered". He did not specify what sort of weapon systems Pakistan had requested.

Earlier reports had said that the US does not want to deliver the systems that can be used for carrying a nuclear warhead. But Mr Kasuri said that Pakistan would not accept "any toothless weapon" and would only take "what meets our defence need."

In March 2005, the US agreed to sell F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, reversing a 15-year ban on the supply of these sophisticated war machines to the country.

In 1990, the first Bush administration had cancelled a deal for selling the fighter jets to Pakistan following a dispute over Islamabad's nuclear plan although Pakistan had already paid for 28 of these planes.

While reviving the offer in March 2005, the Bush administration agreed to sell as many as 100 of these planes to Pakistan.

Islamabad wanted to buy 86 but after the October 2006 earthquake, which also dealt a serious blow to the national economy, Pakistan informed the US that it can only buy 36.

"Yes, we have reduced the numbers because of budget constraints," said Mr Kasuri. "The Americans are still interested in selling as many as we want." The US, he said, was also helping Pakistan improve its capability to monitor the Pakistan-Afghan border and has agreed to sell new equipment for this purpose. The Americans will train our troops as well, he added.

Mr Kasuri said that after his talks with Democratic leaders in Washington this week, he was "absolutely convinced that there will be no reduction in military assistance to Pakistan despite a change of command in the US Congress."
Source: IANS
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