Sat, Sep 23, 2006 - Page 5 News List

US threatened to bomb Pakistan, Musharraf says

COERCION The Pakistani president said the US had insinuated that it would bomb his country `back to the Stone Age' if it didn't cooperate in the `war on terror'

AFP , NEW YORK

The US threatened to bomb Pakistan "back to the Stone Age" after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks unless it supported the war on terror, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said in an interview released on Thursday.

Musharraf, whose support for the US-led war in Afghanistan after the attacks was instrumental in the fall of the Taliban regime, said former US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage made the threat to Pakistan's head of intelligence.

"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 with the 60 Minutes investigative news program, according to selected excepts.

"I think it was a very rude remark," Musharraf says in the interview, due to be broadcast tomorrow. "One has to think and take actions in the interests of the nation, and that's what I did."

Shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, Pakistan abandoned its support for the Taliban, which was sheltering al-Qaeda leaders, and became a front-line ally in the US-led "war on terror."

Pakistan has since arrested several senior al-Qaeda members including Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, the alleged mastermind of the 2001 attacks.

The South Asian country has also deployed around 80,000 troops on the rugged border with Afghanistan to hunt pro-Taliban and al-Qaeda linked militants who sneaked into the area after fleeing the US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

The White House declined to comment on Musharraf's comments, with a US official saying on condition of anonymity only that Pakistan had made "a strategic choice" to help after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Armitage's alleged threat also demanded that Pakistan turn over border posts and bases for the US military to use in the war in Afghanistan, which ended with the Taliban regime's collapse in late 2001.

Other "ludicrous" demands required Pakistan to suppress domestic expressions of support for militant attacks on US targets, according to the CBS network, which produces 60 Minutes. "If somebody's expressing views, we cannot curb the expression of views," it quoted Musharraf as saying.

In the interview, Musharraf also reveals an embarrassing episode in which former CIA director George Tenet confronted him in 2003 with proof that the father of Pakistan's nuclear program was passing secrets to Libya, Iran and North Korea.

Abdul Qadeer Khan, held as hero in Pakistan for helping to make the country a nuclear power, admitted giving away nuclear secrets in a televised confession in February 2004, exposing a global black market in nuclear technology.

"He [Tenet] took his briefcase out, passed me some papers. It was a centrifuge design with all its numbers and signatures of Pakistan. It was the most embarrassing moment," Musharraf says.

It was only then, he says, that he realized that not only had blueprints been leaked, but that centrifuges themselves -- a crucial element in enriching uranium to weapons grade -- were being passed on, CBS said.

Musharraf denies that anyone in the government or military was aware of the leak. He pardoned Khan the same month, but the ailing scientist has since lived under virtual house arrest in a leafy diplomatic sector in Islamabad.

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