Former U.S. deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage said Friday that an official document detailing his conversation with the Pakistani intelligence chief confirms he did not threaten that Pakistan would be bombed if the Pakistani leader refuses to join the U.S. fight against al-Qaida.
"It did not happen. I was not authorized to say something like that. I did not say it," local mass media quoted Armitage as saying.
Armitage, who was former Secretary of State Colin Powell's right-hand man at the time, said he called the State Department Friday morning to double-check his memory and had an employee read him the cable he had sent after his meeting with the Pakistani intelligence chief, whom Armitage identified as Gen. M.
"I reviewed the cable, or had it read to me this morning from the State Department, and there was in no way that threat," Armitage said.
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said on Thursday that the United States threatened to bomb his country "back to the Stone Age" after the Sept. 11 attacks if he did not help America's war on terror.
Musharraf told CBS-TV's "60 Minutes" program that the threat came from Richard Armitage and was made 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,'" Musharraf said in the interview to be shown Sunday on CBS.
"I think it was a very rude remark," Musharraf said in the interview.
Bush said Friday that he was "taken aback" by a purported U.S. threat to bomb Pakistan "back to the Stone Age" if it did not cooperate in the fight against terrorism after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Speaking to reporters after meeting with Musharraf at the White House, Bush said "I guess I was taken aback by the harshness of the words."
Bush stopped short of flatly denying the report. Instead, he spoke highly of Musharraf's role in war against terrorism.
Bush praised the Pakistani leader for being one of the first foreign leaders to come out after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to stand with the United States to "help root out an enemy."
Also on Friday, the White House said that it was not U.S. policy to threaten Pakistan after the Sept. 11 attacks, but acknowledged it might have been "a classic failure to communicate."
"U.S. policy was not to issue bombing threats, U.S. policy was to say to president Musharraf 'we need you to make a choice," White House spokesman Tony Snow said, adding "This could have been a classic failure to communicate. I just don't know."