The Clinton administration is close to completing a three-cushion arms-export shot that would deliver F-16 combat jets to Indonesia and give the money from the sale to Pakistan, U.S. officials said Tuesday.
Completion of the transaction would go a long way toward ending a long-standing dispute between Washington and Islamabad, but it is drawing criticism from human rights advocates, who oppose military sales to Indonesia because of that country’s occupation and repression of East Timor.
Indonesia will buy some and perhaps all of a fleet of 28 F-16s for which Pakistan paid $658 million in the early 1990s.
The planes were never delivered because of a U.S. law barring military aid to Pakistan if it were trying to build nuclear weapons.
Pakistan will probably use the proceeds from the sale to Indonesia to buy reconditioned Mirage combat planes from France.
The agreement is not final, but “we’re in very good shape,” Assistant Secretary of State Winston Lord said of the deal.
Pakistan signed a contract to buy the F-16s in 1989 and paid for them in installments over the next several years.
Delivery was blocked when President George Bush notified Congress in 1990 that he was unable to certify that Pakistan had abandoned its effort to develop nuclear weapons.
That notification triggered a 1985 law--known as the Pressler amendment for its chief sponsor, Sen. Larry Pressler (R-S.D.)--banning military aid or sales to Pakistan.
After meeting last year with Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto the administration negotiated with Congress in an effort to win modification of the Pressler amendment and end the impasse.