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Last Updated: Sunday, 31 July 2005, 12:52 GMT 13:52 UK
Pakistan 'to receive F-16s soon'
F-16 fighter jets

Pakistan has said it will take delivery "in the near future" of two US F-16 fighters after a landmark arms deal.

The US said in March it would resume sales - suspended by an embargo imposed in 1990 over Islamabad's nuclear weapons programme.

The F-16s are seen as a reward for support Pakistan has given for the US-led "war on terror".

India, which has fought three wars with Pakistan, has said the deal upsets the balance of power in the region.

'Nominal cost'

Pakistan already has about 30 F-16s, delivered before the embargo, but was anxious to increase its fleet.

Reports in Pakistan's Dawn newspaper said the US Congress was likely to back the move later in August, allowing Pakistan to take the planes by early October.

A statement by Pakistan Air Cmdr Sarfaraz Ahmed Khan said the jets were "being provided to Pakistan from the ready available stock" at a "very nominal" cost.

Air Cmdr Khan said negotiations to buy newer F-16s were still going on and their number and the delivery dates would be decided "at a later stage".

Some media reports have said Pakistan wants 25 of the planes about $25m each.

In March, President Musharraf said it wanted as many as it could afford.

Relations between Pakistan and the US have improved greatly since the 2001 plane attacks in Washington and New York.

The US lifted its arms embargo shortly afterwards and now says Pakistan is a major non-Nato ally.

India has criticised the F-16 sales, saying they will disturb the regional balance of power and hinder its own peace moves with Pakistan.

Since last year, the nations have been involved in a peace dialogue aimed at resolving the dispute over the divided region of Kashmir, the cause of two conflicts and which both countries claim in its entirety.

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