Musharraf denies reports of secret deal with US

Musharraf denies reports of secret deal with US

"The accusation of my having allowed intrusion into Pakistan by US forces chasing Osama bin Laden is absolutely baseless," said Musharraf, currently living outside Pakistan in self-exile.

"Never has this subject even been discussed between myself and (the then US) President (George W) Bush, leave aside allowing such freedom of action that would violate our sovereignty," he said in a statement.

The Guardian newspaper, citing serving and retired Pakistani and US officials, reported that the secret deal was struck between Musharraf and Bush after bin Laden escaped US forces in the mountains of Tora Bora in Afghanistan in late 2001.

Under the terms of the deal, the report said, Pakistan would allow US forces to conduct a unilateral raid inside Pakistan in search of bin Laden, his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri and the Al-Qaeda No 3. Afterwards, Pakistan would vociferously protest the incursion, both sides agreed.

Bin Laden was killed on May 2 by US commandos during a raid on a compound near the Pakistan Military Academy in Abbottabad, a garrison city near Islamabad.

Pakistani officials insisted they knew nothing of the raid and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani warned yesterday that Pakistan would "retaliate with full force" if the US carried out a similar operation.

Musharraf too had criticised the raid, describing it as a "violation of the sovereignty of Pakistan".