Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf denied Tuesday that his administration struck an agreement with the United States years ago to let American special forces kill or capture Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan.
The denial follows a report in the Guardian, a British newspaper, that the United States and Pakistan reached a secret deal nearly a decade ago when George W. Bush was president allowing the United States to conduct operations against bin Laden and two other top al-Qaida leaders on Pakistani soil.
"Pervez Musharraf has seen a media report, and let me make it clear that no such agreement had been signed during his tenure," said Musharraf's spokesman, Fawad Chaudhry.
In the report published Thursday, the Guardian, quoting U.S. officials and retired Pakistani officials, said Musharraf and Bush struck the agreement after bin Laden escaped U.S. forces in the mountains of Tora Bora in late 2001. If such a raid were conducted, the agreement was that Pakistani officials would publicly denounce the U.S. unilateral action.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration responded to allegations by the sons of bin Laden that the United States violated legal norms in killing him, saying the United Nations charter allows for a country's self-defense.
The United States challenged criticism by Omar bin Laden, who leveled the charges in a statement released to the New York Times and published Tuesday.
The son, who wrote that he disagreed with his father's "ways," said the U.S. military team who raided his father's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, should have arrested the unarmed bin Laden and sent him to trial. He cited the example of trials for former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.
"We maintain that arbitrary killing is not a solution to political problems" and justice must be done, the statement said. In addition to violating international law, the U.S. action contradicted the American right to a fair trial, the younger bin Laden wrote, adding that his father was "summarily executed." He also objected to his father's burial at sea.
The Obama administration responded that al-Qaida had declared war on the United States and took pride in killing Americans. The United States deemed him a combatant, a U.S. official said on condition of anonymity. The official cited Article 51 of the UN charter as guaranteeing a nation's inherent right to self-defense.
Vice President Biden, asked to respond to the allegation of illegality, said, "Are you kidding?"
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said last week that the killing of bin Laden complied with the law.
The New York Times said it obtained the statement from American author Jean Sasson, who helped the son and his mother, Najwa bin Laden, write "Growing Up bin Laden," a 2009 memoir.