Zardari, army reject Ijaz claim on Osama raid

Islamabad: Pakistan`s civil and military authorities have rejected American businessman Mansoor Ijaz`s claim that President Asif Ali Zardari had told army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani that the covert US operation against Osama bin Laden was carried out with his approval.

Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar described as "absolutely untrue" Ijaz`s claim that Zardari had advance information about the raid against bin Laden on May 2 last year in Abbottabad.

"A section of the media has carried reports implying that President Asif Ali Zardari had through a phone call, on the night of the May 2 raid on Osama bin Laden, informed the army chief that the operation had been conducted with his approval," Babar said in a brief statement.

These reports are "absolutely untrue and unfounded", he said. In a separate statement, a military spokesman referred to Ijaz`s claims and said there was "no telephone conversation between the President and the (army chief) on the night between May 1 and May 2, 2011".

"The military leadership has briefed the joint session of the parliament as well as the Abbotabad commission on the subject and there is nothing more to add to it," the military spokesman said, referring to the judicial commission that is probing bin Laden`s presence in Pakistan.

The media had quoted Ijaz, the main accuser in the memo scandal that rocked Pakistan`s political and diplomatic circles, as saying that Zardari had advance information of the US raid that killed the al-Qaeda leader in the garrison town of Abbottabad.

Ijaz further claimed Zardari had telephoned the army chief on the day of the US raid and asked him not to use F-16 combat jets to target the helicopters carrying the US troops. Ijaz has offered no credible evidence to back up his claims.