US PRESIDENT BILL Clinton has assured visiting Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto that he will try to persuade Congress to release 28 embargoed Lockheed F-16s or return the $600 million which Pakistan has already paid for the aircraft.

Another option is to seek authorisation to sell the F-16s to a third country and return the money to Pakistan.

The sanctions were imposed by Congress in 1990 under legislation banning deliveries of military equipment unless the President could certify that Pakistan does not possess nuclear weapons.

"They're not going to get money or planes anytime soon," the White House cautions. Senator Larry Pressler, architecture of the embargo, says that the USA must continue the sanctions. "Pakistan has nuclear bombs and intends to strengthen its potential to obtain more," he claims.

"We have enough knowledge and capability to make and assemble a nuclear weapon, but we have voluntarily chosen not to either assemble a nuclear weapon, to detonate a nuclear weapon or to export technology," Bhutto said during a visit to Washington DC.

Source: Flight International