Bush 'Taken Aback' By Musharraf Claim

President Bush holds a joint press conference with Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Friday, Sept. 22, 2006, in the East Room at the White House in Washington.
AP Photo/Ron Edmonds
President Bush said Friday he was "taken aback" by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's contention that the U.S. threatened to bomb Pakistan back to the Stone Age if it did not cooperate right after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Musharraf said in an that Richard Armitage, who was then deputy secretary of state at the time, told a Pakistani official that the United States would attack Pakistan if it didn't back the war on terror.

Musharraf wouldn't comment on his statement, saying he has a book coming out and that he's promised the publisher he wouldn't talk about it.

Mr. Bush accepted that answer and told reporters to "buy the book," CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller reports.

Musharraf's book will be published by Simon & Schuster, which is part of CBS Corp.

Appearing at a joint White House news conference, Mr. Bush praised Musharraf 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."

Musharraf said a peace treaty between his government and tribes along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border is not meant to support the Taliban.

He said news reports had mischaracterized the deals. "The deal is not at all with the Taliban. This deal is against the Taliban. This deal is with the tribal elders," Musharraf said.

Said Mr. Bush: "I believe him."

He said that Musharraf had looked him in the eye and vowed that "the tribal deal is intended to reject the Talibanization of the people and that there won't be a Taliban and there won't be al Qaeda (in Pakistan)."

In the CBS interview, Musharraf told Steve Kroft that after the Sept. 11 attacks, Armitage told Pakistan's intelligence director that the United States would bomb his country if it didn't help fight terrorists.

"The intelligence director told me that (Armitage) said, 'Be prepared to go back to the Stone Age,'" Musharraf said.

Armitage has disputed the language attributed to him but did not deny the message was a strong one. The former senior U.S. official told Associated Press Radio on Friday: "There was no military threat, and I was not authorized to do so."

"It did not happen," Armitage said.

Asked about the report, Mr. Bush said, "The first I heard of this is when I read it in the newspaper. I guess I was taken aback by the harshness of the words."