US lawmaker seeks to block sale of F-16s to Pak
A leading Democrat in the US Congress introduced legislation on Thursday to block the George W Bush administration's proposed sale of up to 36 combat aircraft to Pakistan.
Representative Ed Markey, who co-chairs a bipartisan congressional task force on non-proliferation, said his bill would prevent the sale of the three dozen F-16 fighter jets from going forward, unless the president certifies to Congress that Pakistan has terminated construction of its plutonium production reactor.
Earlier this week, press reports revealed that Pakistan has been building a plutonium production reactor capable of producing enough weapons-grade nuclear material for up to 50 atomic bombs per year.
"We should pressure India and Pakistan to stop producing plutonium and enrich uranium for nuclear bombs, not give them the tools to make and deliver those weapons with greater ease," Markey said, also linking the deal to his disapproval over a US-India civilian nuclear energy deal which cleared the House of Representatives on Wednesday.
"These F-16 aircraft are capable of delivering nuclear weapons, and if this arms sale goes through, we will only be putting additional fuel on the fire of an Indian-Pakistan nuclear arms race."
Markey continued: "We should not proceed with this arms sale unless the US can prove that Pakistan is not moving forward with a nuclear reactor that, once completed, could be used to increase Pakistan's annual nuclear weapons production capability from an estimated seven bombs a year up to an estimated 50 bombs a year.