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US, Pakistani Officials Hold Security, Defense Cooperation Talks

Senior defense officials from Pakistan and the United States have held discussions on the war on terrorism and boosting Islamabad's defense capabilities. The agenda included Islamabad's desire to buy U.S. fighter jets, but no decision was made on the issue.

The head of the U.S. delegation to the Pakistan-U.S Defense Consultative Group says Washington is committed to helping Pakistan develop its military.

Undersecretary for Defense Douglas Feith said Thursday's talks focused on cooperation in the war on terror and building military ties between Pakistan and the United States.

"We discussed our common work together on the war on terrorism," Mr. Faith says. "The American side reported on the thinking that we have been doing about re-aligning our global defense posture we discussed the defense trade between the United States and Pakistan and the United States is pleased to be able to help Pakistan to develop its capabilities."

Mr. Feith said the United States is considering a request from Pakistan to buy F-16 fighter planes but he would not say whether the two sides were close to reaching any understanding on the issue.

However, the leader of the Pakistani delegation, Hamid Nawaz Khan, said after the talks in the garrison town of Rawalpindi that his government is hopeful.

"This item is very much on the agenda and it is under consideration," Mr. Khan says. "Now exactly how much of it would materialize, when would it materialize, just wait and see. There is a lot of hope in the air."

Pakistan has become a key U.S ally since Washington launched its anti-terror campaign three years. The policy has earned Pakistan both political and economic assistance from the United States. The Bush administration also has declared Pakistan a major non-NATO ally.

In November, the U.S Defense Department notified Congress of three proposed arms sales to Pakistan worth more than a billion dollars. The deals include equipment for surveillance aircraft that Pakistan says will be used in the hunt for Islamic militants on its border with Afghanistan.