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US set to sell eight new F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan: report

WASHINGTON: The US administration is preparing to sell eight new F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, senior American officials said here today.

According to a report in New York Times, the move is intended to bolster a tenuous partnership between the two countries.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is currentl;y on a four-day official visit to the United States

The report said Mr. Obama, like President George W. Bush before him, is trying to balance pressure on Pakistan with signs that Washington still considers it a vital ally. Congress was notified just days ago about the proposed sale of the additional fighters, although it is not clear if the White House plans to announce the sale of the aircraft during the visit.

The Federation of American Scientists, a leading American group that monitors the spread of nuclear weapons, published a report on Wednesday that shows that Pakistan has expanded its arsenal to 110 to 130 warheads, up from a range of 90 to 110 four years ago.

While those figures show a steady but expected increase, the group estimated that by 2025 the figure would rise to 220 to 250 warheads. That would make Pakistan the world’s fifth-largest nuclear power, behind the United States, Russia, China and France, but ahead of Britain, which is shrinking its arsenal.

Many in Congress fear that the F-16 jets are more useful to Pakistan in its long confrontation with India than for counterterrorism. It is unclear if Congress will approve the deal: Congress and the State Department are already in a standoff over an effort to sell used Navy cutter vessels to Pakistan earlier this year.

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