ISLAMABAD (AFP) – The Saudi king considers President Asif Ali Zardari the greatest obstacle to progress in Pakistan, according to scathing comments reported by the New York Times in leaked US diplomatic cables.
"When the head is rotten it affects the whole body," King Abdullah was quoted as saying.
Zardari is deeply unpopular at home. Tainted by corruption allegations and nicknamed "Mr 10 Percent," he spent 11 years in jail on charges ranging from corruption to murder, but has never been convicted.
The Pakistani government immediately dismissed the reported insult from one of Pakistan's closest allies.
Zardari considers King Abdullah "his elder brother", presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar told AFP from Colombo where the Pakistani leader is paying an official visit.
"The so-called leaks are no more than an attempt to create misperceptions between two important and brotherly Muslim countries," Babar said.
Pakistan's foreign ministry said the "extremely negative reports" on relations with Saudi Arabia were "misleading and contrary to facts," and took a veiled swipe at US interpretations.
"It is quite evident that these mischievous reports reveal the utter inadequacy of the author to grasp the essence of the Pakistan-Saudi relationship," it said.
"Pakistan enjoys a very special and unique relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," it said, calling it one between "true friends and brothers".
Pakistan has strongly condemned the staggered release of up to quarter of a million confidential American diplomatic cables by website WikiLeaks, calling the leaks an "irresponsible disclosure of sensitive official documents".