U.S. Congress to Pakistan: Pay for Your Own F-16s

A Pakistani F-16 fighter performs during a ceremony marking Pakistan Defense Day in Islamabad on September 6, 2015. Faisal Mahmood/Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has told Pakistan it will have to finance the purchase of U.S. F-16 fighter jets itself after members of the U.S. Congress objected to the use of government funds to pay for them.

The U.S. government said in February it had approved the sale to Pakistan of up to eight F-16 fighter jets built by Lockheed Martin Corp LMT.N, as well as radar and other equipment in a deal valued at $699 million.

However, Republican Senator Bob Corker said he would use his power as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to bar the use of any U.S. funds for the deal to send a message to Pakistan that it needed to do more in the war against militants.

Corker's stance reflected deep unhappiness among both Democrats and Republicans in Congress about what they see as Islamabad's policy of supporting militant groups that target Afghans and Americans, and Pakistan's failure to support the reconciliation process for Afghanistan.

U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said congressional opposition meant funds from the U.S. government's Foreign Military Financing allocation could not be used to purchase the aircraft.

"Given congressional objections, we have told the Pakistanis that they should put forward national funds for that purpose," he told a regular news briefing.

Kirby said the State Department opposed putting conditions on the use of such funds and believed that effective engagement with Pakistan, including by supporting its counter-terrorism effort, was "critical" to promoting democracy and economic stability in the country.

Earlier, in Islamabad, Syed Tariq Fatemi, special assistant on foreign affairs to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, did not refer directly to the F-16 issue, but complained that there was a "lack of sufficient appreciation for Pakistan's whole-hearted efforts it was undertaking jointly with the U.S. administration, in countering the threat posed by terrorism."

Fatemi made the remarks in a meeting with visiting professional staffers from the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee.

Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) said in March it was using its own funds to pay suppliers and stave off closure of its F-16 fighter jet production line as it waited to finalize orders from Pakistan and other countries.