Key senator wants hearing on possible F-16 sale to Pakistan

WASHINGTON U.S. Senator John McCain on Thursday urged the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to hold a hearing on the possible sale of Lockheed Martin Corp F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan.

McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters he was concerned about the timing of the Obama administration’s decision to approve the sale of the fighter jets to Pakistan, and potential consequences for U.S. relations with India.

“I would rather have seen it kicked over into the next administration,” McCain said.

He said a hearing would help senators decide what to do about the proposed sale, noting that he was himself very “conflicted.”

The U.S. government announced on Feb. 12 that it had approved the sale to Pakistan of up to eight F-16 fighter jets, as well as radars and other equipment in a deal valued at $699 million.

The deal drew immediate criticism from India.

U.S. lawmakers now have 30 days to block the sale, although such action is rare since deals are usually well-vetted before any formal notification.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker allowed the Obama administration to proceed with the deal, but said he would not approve using U.S. funds to pay for the planes through the foreign military financing (FMF) program.

Corker told Secretary of State John Kerry in a letter earlier this month that he was concerned about Pakistan’s ties to the Haqqani network, a militant group that U.S. officials have said is behind attacks in Afghanistan.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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