US F-16 fighter jets bound for Pakistan

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The Independent US

The US has agreed to resume sales of nuclear-capable F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, as an explicit reward for General Pervez Musharraf's support in the war on terror, reversing a decades-old arms embargo.

The US has agreed to resume sales of nuclear-capable F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, as an explicit reward for General Pervez Musharraf's support in the war on terror, reversing a decades-old arms embargo.

The decision infuriated India, Pakistan's neighbour and nuclear rival. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed his "great disappointment" over the sale when President George Bush called him yesterday to explain the move, a spokesman in New Delhi said.

In an attempt to ensure that the strategic balance in south Asia is not upset, Washington is indicating that it will sell the sophisticated F-16 fighters to India as well.

A spokesman for the Bush administration said: "The sale of F-16s will not change the overall balance of military power in the region and is vital to Pakistan's security as President Musharraf prosecutes the war on terror."

The original F-16 sale dates back to the 1980s, when Washington was broadly aligned with Pakistan in its regional dispute with India, then backed by the Soviet Union.

But even though Pakistan had paid for the planes in advance, the US suspended the deal as part of an arms embargo imposed when Washington established that its ally was pursuing nuclear weapons.

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