US denies consultation with India on aid to Pak to upgrade F-16

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Washington, Jul 25 (UNI) The Bush administration denied that it has consulted India on the US proposal to shift 226.5 million dollars in US counterterrorism aid to Pakistan to upgrade its F-16 fighters.

'No, we did not,'said Deputy Spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said yesterday when he was asked that was the latest shift in the F-16 money was the subject of the President's call to the Indian Prime Minister [Manmohan Singh].

The money was approved by the Congress for military equipment and training that had been earmarked for law enforcement and counter-terrorism purposes. The step has been taken in advance of Pakistani Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani's visit here next week.

Gallegos explained, "this is a mid-life update package that had been decided upon in 2006. And we've just made a decision to shift funds from one set of upgrades for a couple of different airframes, let me be specific about that. I'm not going to go into any more detail about that, other than to say then a couple of different airframes -- to these F-16s." "I want to make very clear is that we have recently agreed to sell Pakistan some F-16s and that this midlife update of these aircraft will provide these older aircraft with the same level of technology that the current models that we are selling them have," The spokesman said.

Gallegos said, "these mid-life update enhancements are going to provide Pakistan's air force with the technological capability to conduct precision close airstrikes against al-Qaida, Taliban and associated terrorist targets who exploit the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas, as well as providing non traditional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance." When asked as to how many times has Pakistan conducted air strikes against the Taliban and other militants in that area, Gallegos said, "I'm not with the DOD [Department of Defense] and couldn't tell you that number. I'd refer you to them [DOD] to discuss." UNI XC NC VC1400

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