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Musharraf Denies Accusations He Backed Taliban

Musharraf left office in August 2008
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) -- Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has denied accusations that he supported the Taliban while receiving U.S. funding to fight them when he was in power.

The former army chief, who was forced to step down last August, criticized "New York Times" journalist David E. Sanger over allegations of Pakistani duplicity which he made in a book titled "The Inheritance".

"Get your facts correct, I have never double-dealt," Musharraf said in comments to a number of Pakistani television channels.

Musharraf survived several assassination attempts by Al-Qaeda-inspired militants and was often praised by U.S. President George W. Bush as a strong ally in the war on terrorism.

"There is a big conspiracy being hatched against Pakistan, to weaken the Pakistan army and the ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence agency], to weaken Pakistan," said Musharraf, citing the heavy casualties Pakistan's armed forces have suffered fighting militancy.

Sanger's book focuses on the foreign policy challenges faced by U.S. President Barack Obama. Analysts say one of Obama's toughest problems will be to convince Pakistan to close down sanctuaries on its territory used by Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants.

Musharraf also denied he had told the late former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto that her safety in Pakistan depended on her relationship with him.

Bhutto was assassinated in December 2007 two months after returning from self-imposed exile as Musharraf's grip on power began to slip. Bhutto's husband, Asif Ali Zardari, became president after Musharraf resigned.