WASHINGTON - US Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Wednesday he does not expect an upcoming vote on a $700 million sale of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan to keep the deal from going ahead. However, he said there was still discussion of whether US taxpayer funds could be used to finance the purchase.

Republican Senator Rand Paul in February invoked legislation known as Arms Export Control Act in the hope of stopping the sale by passing a Resolution of Disapproval, calling Pakistan "an uncertain ally." Cardin told reporters he opposed Paul's resolution and expected it would fail, with the chamber's Republican and Democratic leaders opposing it. The measure could be taken up by the Senate as soon as Thursday.

Cardin said lawmakers had concerns about Pakistan's nuclear programme, commitment to fighting terrorism and cooperation in Afghanistan peace process but generally supported the sale." It was not controversial that Pakistan needs to modernise its air force and its counter insurgency and counter-terrorism activities, particularly in the mountainous territory of the border with Afghanistan," he said. Congress is currently considering a request to "reprogramme" some funds, in other words, use them for a different purpose than allocated in a budget bill, to help finance the deal.

Cardin said he was not yet prepared to make a judgment on whether US taxpayer funds should be used to help Pakistan with the purchase.