Bid to block Pakistan F-16 sale fails in Senate

WASHINGTON The U.S. Senate on Thursday blocked an effort to prevent the $700 million sale of Lockheed Martin Corp F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan.

Lawmakers voted 71 to 24 against moving to a vote on a Resolution of Disapproval introduced by Republican Senator Rand Paul that would have prevented the sale under legislation known as the Arms Control Act.

President Barack Obama’s administration announced on Feb. 12 that it had approved the sale to Pakistan of the aircraft, as well as radars and other equipment. It drew immediate criticism from India and concern from some members of Congress.

Paul had called Pakistan “an uncertain ally” and other lawmakers expressed concerns about Pakistan’s nuclear program, commitment to fighting terrorist organizations and cooperation in the Afghanistan peace process.

However, they generally supported the sale, saying the South Asian state needs to modernize its air force and counter-terrorism activities.

The United States identified Pakistan as a key partner in its war against terror following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and spent billions of dollars on military aid to help the country fight insurgents.

But there is growing consternation in Washington about continuing with the same level of assistance unless Pakistan provides evidence it is using the funds effectively to eliminate militants.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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