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US moves, to review sale of F-16 jets to Pakistan
Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington

The Bush administration is reviewing the sale of F-16 fighter jets and P-3 aircraft to Pakistan in the wake of President Pervez Musharraf's decision to impose emergency rule.

President George W. Bush also said he had asked secretary of state Condoleezza Rice to convey his message to Gen Musharraf "that we expect there to be elections as soon as possible and that the president should remove his military uniform".

The US Congress last year approved a deal to sell 36 F-16 aircraft to Pakistan. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said half of those aircraft were new models, and the other half, which were older models, were being sold as “excess defence articles”.

A senior Bush administration official said Gen Musharraf ignored the advice of top US officials to not impose the state of emergency. “We argued strongly that this was the wrong course for the government to take. The government decided for its own reasons to go forward, notwithstanding our advice,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The official said Washington became aware at the beginning of last week that there was emerging concern within the Pakistani government “about the direction and what would come out of the Supreme Court in its decision on President Musharraf's election” and about the security situation and how it would be affected by the Supreme Court’s actions.

The official said top Bush administration officials including Rice and US Ambassador in Islamabad Anne Patterson were involved in an “intensive process of interaction with the Pakistan government”.

The Bush administration was concerned that declaring emergency “would be a step away from constitutional, democratic government”.

Bush noted that prior to Gen Musharraf's declaration of emergency US officials had made it clear that this measure would “undermine democracy”.

“Now that he's made that decision, our hope is that he hurry back to elections. And at the same time, we want to continue working with him to fight these terrorists and extremists, who not only have tried to kill him, but who use parts of his country from which to launch attacks into Afghanistan or for plotting attacks against America," Bush said at the White House.

The crisis in Pakistan is particularly troubling to the US because Pakistan is a key ally in the war on terror. “So it is important to have a favorable resolution of this situation,” Whitman said on Monday. “Secretary Rice has made it pretty clear that we will review all our military assistance,” he added.

Since 2001, the US assistance to Pakistan has totalled US$ 9.6 billion. That includes about $ 300 million a year for foreign military financing; more than $ 10 million a year for nonproliferation, antiterrorism, demining and related programmes; about $25.5 million in international narcotics control and law enforcement funding -- a figure that could increase to $ 32 million in fiscal 2008 if Congress approves the request; and about $ 2 million a year in International Military Education and Training funds, Whitman said.

The senior administration official indicated members of Congress would want to rethink US aid to Pakistan. “There's no secret that there's going to be concern about this activity on Capitol Hill. There's concern here in the United States, in the executive branch, and concerns more broadly,” the official said. “So, obviously, they are questions about the future of our aid and assistance, but what we are looking for now in the next several days, sometime in the course of this week, we would hope, is some clarification on the intentions of the government. And we've made clear the direction on which we think they ought to proceed," the official added.

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