F-16 delivery to Pakistan delayed

Although both sides firmly deny the agreement is at risk, what has been termed an 11th-hour ''misunderstanding'' has apparently prevented Pakistan from receiving the first of its 40 F-16 aircraft Thursday, Dec. 2.

Monitor contributor Mary Anne Weaver writes that the delivery schedule had been carefully timed to add pomp to the Sunday departure of President Muhammad Zia ul-Haq on an official visit to Washington, thus causing both annoyance among Pakistani officials and a good deal of embarrassment.

Centering on highly sophisticated radar equipment and what configurations Pakistan will get, the unexpected snag - after two years of intensive negotiations - has baffled Western diplomats. They were told by United States officials, who are conscientiously attempting to play down the incident, that mere ''semantics'' are involved. Pakistani officials are not so sure.

The waters were smoothed somewhat on Sunday, in a telephone conversation between Presidents Reagan and Zia, but the delivery schedule for the six aircraft remains ''on hold.''

The jets are part of a defense package that also includes some of the latest artillery pieces. But the F-16s, to the Pakistanis, intent upon matching India militarily, are the frosting on the cake.

The planes were offered to Pakistan 18 months ago as part of a $1.6 billion military assistance package over the next five years. But problems have beset the deal almost from the beginning. Saudi Arabia, according to high Western sources, has already made the $111 billion down payment on the F-16s.

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