US to sell fighter jets to Pakistan

The Bush administration has notified Congress it has approved sale of 18 new F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan as part of a $5 billion weapons deal. The package, which includes an option to purchase another 18 F-16 fighter jets, an offer to modernize 26 used aircraft already in Pakistan's arsenal, as well as logistical and other support was quietly sent to Congress on Wednesday. It coincides with a so-far successful administration drive in Congress for endorsement of nuclear cooperation with India, a historic rival of Pakistan. But a State Department spokeswoman, Julie Reside, said Thursday the two actions are unrelated. "We believe in treating each country individually," Reside said. "Each faces defense issues different from the other." Pakistan has strained for years to purchase new F-16 jets. Its support for the United States in countering terrorism apparently bolstered its case.