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TAPE AIRED TO BACK CLAIMS OF EXTORTION ATTEMPT

Michael Jackson's representatives played a taped phone conversation they say supports their claim that the allegations against him of child-molesting resulted from an extortion attempt.

The pop star, meanwhile, took a breather Thursday by relaxing with some of his favorite companions - exotic animals - a day after wrapping up the two-concert Singapore leg of his "Dangerous" world tour.With close friend actress Elizabeth Taylor in tow, Jackson made a trip to the Mandai Zoo, billed as one of the world's stellar collections of animals.

Jackson came under investigation in Los Angeles after a 13-year-old reported he was molested by the singer during a four-month relationship. Jackson has denied any wrongdoing, and no charges have been filed.

The tape played for reporters on Wednesday was purported to be a recording of an Aug. 17 conversation between Jackson's private investigator, Anthony Pellicano, and Barry Rothman, a lawyer for the boy's father.

Jackson's lawyer, Howard Weitzman, said the tape "confirms what Mr. Pellicano has told you before with respect to the demands that were made" by the father.

Pellicano said the father, a prominent dentist and sometime screenwriter, wanted $20 million in the form of a film deal to keep quiet about the boy's allegations.

The 25-minute tape makes no mention of molestation and is dominated by heated and sometimes profanity-laced exchanges between Pellicano and the man said to be Rothman over the terms of a movie deal between Jackson and the boy's father.

The father had turned down a one-movie, $350,000 offer from Jackson and was angry because he felt Jackson's people had reneged on an earlier offer for a three-picture deal, according to the tape.

Pellicano presses the man said to be Rothman on why it was in Pellicano's interest to sweeten the $350,000 deal, according to the tape.

"I don't have to state the obvious, and I'm not prepared to do so in this conversation," says the man. He cites concerns that whatever he says could end up as evidence in court.

Calls to Rothman were not immediately returned. It wasn't clear whether he still represents the father. A private investigator who says he was hired by the father has denied the father tried to extort money from Jackson.

In Singapore, Jackson's physician, Dr. David Forcast, declared that the star's health is "great, really great," although he is taking medicine for migraines.