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No curbs on F-16 sales to Pakistan: US

Senior US official Richard Boucher has asserted the restrictions on military aid to Pakistan would not affect the supply of F-16 fighter planes to the country.

world Updated: Dec 22, 2007 11:21 IST
Arun Kumar

Two days after the US Congress slapped restrictions on military aid to Pakistan, a senior US official asserted the constraints would not affect the supply of F-16 fighter planes to the country.

Richard Boucher, assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, also expressed confidence that new restrictions on military aid to Pakistan will not prevent the Bush administration from providing $50 million for the war on terror.

"The F-16 programme is a Pakistani purchase, their money, they're buying them. And our foreign military finance, our military assistance goes for different purposes and is not involved at this point in the F-16 sales.

"So they will be able to continue that and we will be able to continue our efforts...so they can do the fight against terrorism that they are in," he said according to the transcript of a teleconference released on Friday.

Pakistan is to get 18 new F-16C/D fighters by 2010 besides upgrades for its current fleet of 34 F-16 combat aircraft as part of a $2.1 billion deal for new weapons, avionics, engines, and other equipment for F-16 fighters announced in September last year.

Meanwhile, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates too said the Pentagon was looking for ways to improve the Pakistani army's counter-insurgency capabilities as Al Qaeda has regrouped in Pakistan's remote Afghan border area.

It had begun to focus attacks on the Pakistani government and military, he said. However, Al-Qaeda's activities in Pakistan have not yet affected Afghanistan, where US and coalition forces have faced increased Taliban violence in the last two years.

"There is no question that some of the parts in the frontier have become areas where Al-Qaeda has re-established itself," Gates said. "But so far, we haven't seen any significant consequence of that in Afghanistan itself."

"Al-Qaeda right now seems to have turned its face toward Pakistan and attacks on the Pakistani government and Pakistani people," he added.

Gates' comments came a day after Boucher expressed confidence new Congressional restrictions will not prevent it from providing $50 million in military aid to Pakistan.

Congress Wednesday authorised $300 million in aid to Pakistan, but $50 million of it can only be used after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice certifies to Congress that Pakistan is making "concerted efforts" to prevent terrorists and the Taliban from operating inside its borders.

Boucher said he had little doubt that the administration would get the money. "We are confident that we will be able to report to Congress on the developments in the areas that they have identified," he said.

Asserting, this is very much part of the counter-terrorism effort, Boucher said, "It goes to TOW missiles. It goes to tactical radios that their forces can use to plan military operations. And it goes to support the programme for P-3C aircraft that help them do maritime patrols."

He added, "Pakistan is currently, for the second time, in command of the Combined Task Force 150 that patrols the seas off Pakistan and the Arabian Gulf to prevent terrorist activities on the high seas.

"And the P-3 programme is a complement to that, so they can work better with us and others in protecting their neighbourhood from threats of terrorism on the high seas. So, in a variety of different ways, our military programmes serve to support their capability."

"So that's where we are. The requirements of the Congress, I think, are ones we're comfortable with and we look forward to reporting to the Congress and having a dialogue with them," Boucher added.