Purported bin Laden tape blasts Mideast peace efforts

Monday, January 5, 2004

CAIRO, Egypt -- The Al-Jazeera satellite channel broadcast an audiotape Sunday purportedly from al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, in which he urged Muslims to continue fighting a holy war in Iraq and the Middle East rather than cooperate with peace efforts.

The speaker, who referred to recent events -- including the December capture of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, called on Muslims to "continue the jihad to check the conspiracies that are hatched against the Islamic nation." He said the U.S.-led war against Iraq was the beginning of the "occupation" of Gulf states for their oil.

"My message is to incite you against the conspiracies, especially those uncovered by the occupation of the crusaders in Baghdad under the pretext of weapons of mass destruction, and also the situation" in Jerusalem "under the deceptions of the road map and the Geneva initiative," the speaker said.

The tape's authenticity could not immediately be verified, although the voice on the tape resembled that of bin Laden.

Al-Jazeera played it while showing a still photo of bin Laden.

Al-Jazeera last broadcast an audiotape purportedly from bin Laden in October. CIA analysts examining that tape concluded it probably was authentic.

Ibrahim Hilal, Al-Jazeera's editor-in-chief, told The Associated Press the network received the message Sunday. However, he declined to reveal how it was delivered.

The original message was 47 minutes long but the network aired only 14, Hilal said.

In those excerpts, the speaker urged Muslims to "liberate the Islamic world from the military occupation of the Crusaders."

The speaker criticized leaders of Muslim nations for refusing to pressure the United States on the Palestinian issue and for not supporting the Palestinian resistance.

He also criticized Gulf countries for receiving members of the Iraqi Governing Council.

"The deterioration of the situation of Arabs and Muslims is in ignoring Islam as a basic program for rule," the speaker said while calling for establishing a council to replace the Arab rulers and unify Arab positions.

He also called Middle East issues part of a religious and economic war, saying the "big powers" were trying to control the region for its oil.

"The occupation of Iraq is the beginning of the full occupation of the other Gulf states. ... The Gulf is the key for control of the world in the point of view of the big powers because of the presence of the biggest deposits of oil."

Hilal said he was certain the voice on the tape was bin Laden's.

"It is bin Laden's superb and special Arabic language that is very hard to emulate," Hilal said. "It is undoubtedly his voice, his style, and the typical examples from history he uses."

Al-Jazeera last broadcast an audiotape purportedly from bin Laden in October. CIA analysts examining that tape concluded it probably was authentic.

Rival pan-Arab satellite channel Al-Arabiya broadcast a tape last month with a voice claiming to be that of bin Laden. But Al-Jazeera and a U.S. official said it was the same videotape that aired on Al-Jazeera in October.

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