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I didn't know about Pak bombing threat: Bush

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September 22, 2006 22:40 IST
For someone who claims he never reads newspapers nor watches television, President George W Bush said on Friday that the first he heard about the alleged US threat to bomb Pakistan into the stone age if it doesn't cooperate in ousting the Taliban in Afghanistan after 9/11, was when he read it in the newspaper.

At the joint press conference with President Pervez Musharraf in the White House, Bush, asked if the US would have actually bombed Pakistan after 9/11 if President Musharraf had not agreed to cooperate with Washington on the war on terrorism, said, "The first I heard of this is when I read (it) in the newspaper today."

"You know I was... I guess, I was taken aback by the harshness of the words," he said, and added, "All I can tell you is that, shortly after 9/11, Secretary Colin Powell, came in and said, President Musharraf understands the stakes and he wants to join and help rout out an enemy that has come and killed 3,000 of our citizens."

Bush noted, "As a matter of fact, my recollection was that one of the first leaders to step up and say that the stakes had changed, that attack on American that killed 3,000 of its citizens needs to be dealt with firmly, was the President (Musharraf)."

"And, if I am not mistaken, Colin told us that -- if not the night of September 11, shortly thereafter, I need to make sure that I get my facts straight -- but it was soon," he said.

Bush said, "I don't know of any conversation that was reported in the newspaper like that. I just don't know about it."

Musharraf asked if Pakistan would have given up its backing of the Taliban if this threat had not come from then Acting Secretary of State Armitage, dodged the question, saying, "I am launching my book on the 25th (of September), and I am honour-bound not to comment on the book before that date."

Bush immediately quipped to peals of laughter, "In other words, buy the book. That's what he's saying."

Musharraf, on the eve of his meeting with Bush had told CBS' 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft in an interview to be broadcast on Sunday, that after 9/11, the US had threatened to bomb Pakistan if he did not cooperate with the US campaign against the Taliban as part of its war on terror.

He had said the threat came from Armitage and had been conveyed to Musharraf's intelligence director. "The intelligence director told me that (Armitage) said, 'Be prepared to be bombed. Be prepared to go back to the Stone Age. I think it was a very rude remark.'"

Apparently, why Musharraf ducked the question at the press conference was because Simon and Schuster had an arrangement with CBS' 60 minutes, to carry part of the quotes in Musharraf's book as part of an effort to hype the publicity and promotion for the military leader's book, reportedly worth over $1.5 million.

Aziz Haniffa in Washington

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