-AFP Photo

WASHINGTON: Former US military chief Admiral Mike Mullen said on Wednesday that he did not know the man who claimed to have delivered him a message from President Asif Ali Zardari nor did he recall receiving any correspondence from him.

On Oct 10, Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz claimed that President Zardari had sought Washington’s help for removing the army and ISI chiefs and assured the latter that he would cut all ties to militant groups if it assisted him do so.

The president allegedly made this offer in a letter he gave Mr Ijaz for personally delivering it to American leaders.

“Admiral Mullen does not know Mr Ijaz and has no recollection of receiving any correspondence from him,” said a message from the former US military chief. Capt John Kirby, a former spokesman for the admiral, said Mr Mullen had asked him to release this message on his behalf.

“I cannot say definitively that correspondence did not come from him — the admiral received many missives as chairman from many people every day, some official, some not. But he does not recall one from this individual,” Capt Kirby told The Cable, a publication associated with the prestigious Foreign Policy group.

“And in any case, he did not take any action with respect to our relationship with Pakistan based on any such correspondence ... preferring to work at the relationship directly through (Pakistani Army Chief of Staff) Gen (Ashfaq Parvez) Kayani and inside the interagency process.”

In an article he wrote for London’s Financial Times newspaper, Mr Ijaz alleged that President Zardari communicated this offer by sending a top secret memo on May 10 through Mr Ijaz himself, to be hand-delivered to Admiral Mullen, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a key official managing the US-Pakistan relationship.

Mr Mullen’s denial represents the first official US comment on Mr Ijaz’s claimed memo. Several parts of Pakistan’s government denied that Mr Ijaz’s memorandum ever existed. On Oct 30, presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar called Mr Ijaz’s op-ed a ‘fantasy article’ and criticised the FT for running it in the first place.

On Oct 31, Mr Ijaz issued a long statement, threatening to reveal the “senior Pakistani official” that purportedly sent him on his mission.

Mr Ijaz, who runs the firm Crescent Investment Management LLC in New York, has been an interlocutor between US officials and foreign governments for years. He reportedly arranged meetings between US officials and Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.

Susan Rice, now the US ambassador to the United Nations, has acknowledged that in the 1990s Mr Ijaz brought the then Clinton administration offers of counter-terrorism cooperation from Sudan but said that actual cooperation never materialised. She was assistant secretary of state for African affairs in the Clinton administration.

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