Pakistan again threatens to sue over blocked F-16s

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Pakistan has made fresh warnings that it may resort to legal action against the US Government in an effort to recover its investment in 28 Lockheed Martin F-16A/B fighters, the delivery of which has been blocked by Washington.

The threat from Islamabad to sue follows Indonesia's decision to scrap a planned purchase of nine of the F-16s, in response to US political opposition to the deal and criticism of Indonesia's human-rights record. Pakistan's foreign minister, Gohar Ayub Khan, reportedly says there are no other prospective buyers.

The Philippines was also viewed at one stage as a possible buyer of the Pakistan aircraft, but it now appears to favour a twin-engined fighter and is leaning towards the McDonnell Douglas F-18C/D.

Washington has been trying to sell the 28 stored fighters to a third country since 1995, to help Pakistan recoup part of its $658 million outlay. The $160 million deal with Indonesia was undermined by US Congressional opposition and by the controversy surrounding Indonesian political donations to the US Democratic Party (Flight International, 18-24 June, P32).

A total of 71 Block 15-standard F-16A/Bs was ordered by Pakistan in 1988 and 1989, to supplement 40 F-16s delivered earlier, but the Pressler Amendment has imposed an embargo on delivery of US arms since October 1990, because of Pakistan's suspected nuclear weapons programme. Work on the F-16s was halted in 1994, when Pakistan withheld further progress payments, with the 28 aircraft being put into storage.

Pakistan has been pressing the USA to refund the money, to enable it to purchase an alternative fighter. The country has been assisting China with development of the single-engined Chengdu FC-1, but has not yet committed to ordering it.