President Bush says he is unaware of any White House pressure to force Pakistan into joining the fight against terrorism following the 2001 attacks in New York and Washington. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf says a senior Bush administration official threatened to bomb his country if it did not back action against the then-Taleban government in Afghanistan.
President Bush says he was taken aback by the harshness of the alleged U.S. threat which he says he first heard about in the morning's newspaper.
"I don't know of any conversation that was reported in the newspaper like that. I just don't know about it," he said.
In an interview to be aired Sunday on the U.S. television network CBS, President Musharraf says then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told the Pakistani intelligence chief that the United States would bomb his country back to the Stone Age if it did not join the fight against the Taleban. President Musharraf says it was a "very rude remark."
Armitage says he was not authorized to make such a threat.
Asked about it following White House talks with President Bush, President Musharraf said he could not discuss the issue because it is part of his new book.
"I am launching my book on the 25th, and I am honor-bound to Simon and Schuster not to comment on the book before that day," he said.
"In other words, buy the book. That's what he is saying," quipped Mr. Bush.
White House spokesman Tony Snow says the Bush administration did make clear to Pakistan that it had a choice to make following the September 11th terrorist attacks but it is not U.S. policy to issue bombing threats.
During their talks, President Bush and President Musharraf discussed relations with India, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Pakistan's deal with tribal leaders in its remote border region with Afghanistan. President Musharraf say tribal leaders have agreed to prevent Taleban and al-Qaida fighters from operating in the area, where the central government has little control.
That agreement has raised concerns among some U.S. lawmakers that it gives Taleban fighters greater freedom to operate in the area. President Musharraf says that is not so.
"This treaty is not to deal with the Taleban, it is actually to fight the Taleban," he said. "The misperception in the media I did clarify to the president."
President Musharraf says the agreement is part of his holistic approach to fighting terrorism in tribal areas by using political, military, and administrative resources. He has also called on Afghanistan to do more to fight terrorism on its side of the border.
President Bush meets with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the White House next Tuesday, then brings both President Karzai and President Musharraf together for a working dinner Wednesday.