- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 4, 2007

ISLAMABAD, PakistanPresident Pervez Musharraf put the United States in the middle of Pakistan’s presidential campaign yesterday, saying that if re-elected he would not allow U.S. forces to attack terrorist targets inside Pakistan.

Gen. Musharraf’s statement came after exiled opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, his leading political rival, said she would permit such attacks under certain circumstances.

“No foreign powers — including the U.S. — should be allowed to take up military operations on the Pakistani side,” said the general, wearing a gray business suit instead of his trademark military uniform, in an extended interview with Geo TV.

Gen. Musharraf, a key U.S. ally in the war on terror, suggested that constant advice from U.S. officials is not always helpful, though he acknowledged Washington played a key role in arranging power-sharing talks between him and Mrs. Bhutto.

“I personally don’t like it because this makes the U.S. controversial,” he said.

Mrs. Bhutto, talking to reporters in London, said yesterday the negotiations over the power-sharing deal were “totally stalled,” angrily denying claims by Pakistani officials that she and her Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) had reached a deal with Gen. Musharraf that would grant her amnesty from corruption charges and allow her to resume her political career back home.

“The news was absolutely wrong,” Mrs. Bhutto said, adding her party was ready to inflict a “severe blow” on Gen. Musharraf’s hopes to remain in power by pulling its lawmakers out of parliament before Saturday’s presidential vote.

Mrs. Bhutto has said she plans to return to Pakistan from self-imposed exile on Oct. 18 — with or without a deal.

Gen. Musharraf last night said talks with Mrs. Bhutto and another exiled former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, were still going on.

Attacks have become a daily occurrence and yesterday was no exception. At least 14 persons riding a bus were killed by a roadside bomb in Pakistan’s tribal belt along the Afghan border.

Mrs. Bhutto also accused intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, whom Gen. Musharraf named Tuesday to succeed him as army chief, of leading a disinformation campaign against her and the PPP, including the story that a power-sharing deal had been reached.

“The disinformation campaign is being run by the head of the intelligence bureau and the entire intelligence bureau’s job is to create controversy and cause confusion,” she said.

Gen. Musharraf is poised to win a new five-year term on Saturday by an electoral college consisting of lawmakers from the national parliament and four provincial assemblies.

He has agreed to retire from the army no later than Nov. 15, a move that would return Pakistan to civilian rule for the first time since he seized power in a military coup eight years ago.

About 100 lawmakers from other opposition parties have already resigned to protest Saturday’s vote.

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