Proof Or A Fake? World
Divided Over Bin Laden Tape

LONDON (Reuters) - Nations backing the U.S.-led fight against terrorism pointed to a videotape of Osama bin Laden on Friday as damning evidence to nail him conclusively as the mastermind behind the suicide attacks on the United States.
Many ordinary Muslims, however, dismissed the videotape as a fake, saying it was yet another U.S. ploy to sully his name and detract attention from rising tension in the Middle East where Israel has cut ties with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.
Official reaction in many Muslim states, mindful of restive public opinion at home, was muted or circumspect at best.
Germany, Britain, Japan and Saudi Arabia were among the first to accept the videotape of the Saudi-born Islamic militant released by the Pentagon on Thursday as authentic.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the videotape proved without doubt bin Laden was behind the September 11 attacks which killed nearly 3,300 people, and vindicated the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.
``The video is authentic. It proves that bin Laden and his terror band were behind this,'' Schroeder told reporters at a European Union summit in Belgium.
``Any last doubts about the necessity of the fight against this kind of terrorism have been removed,'' he added.
In the tape, bin Laden appears chatting with top aide Ayman al-Zawahri, an Egyptian, and a man identified by U.S. officials as a Sheikh Sulaiman of Saudi origin, praising the attacks and saying he did not expect them to inflict so much damage.
He also makes a specific reference to Egyptian Mohamed Atta as being in charge of the mission in which hijacked airliners plowed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
In Tokyo, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda, the top government spokesman, told a news conference:
``We believe that the video provides evidence for his (bin Laden's) involvement in the attacks.''
Among the scant official Muslim reaction, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz was unequivocal.
``The tape displays the cruel and inhumane face of a murderous criminal who has no respect for the sanctity of human life or the principles of his faith,'' he said.
In the United Arab Emirates, Information Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zaid al-Nahayan said: ``There is no doubt in my mind that bin Laden was behind those operations.''
But ordinary Muslims from the Caucasus to the Indian Ocean branded the tape a fake.
Chechen rebels, accused by Russia of complicity with bin Laden, questioned the authenticity of a tape, saying on their web site that it raised more questions than answers.
``The quality of the tape was quite bad,'' it said. ``Modern technology makes it possible to alter any taped sound.''
In Pakistan, the Jamaat-e-Islami party said even the U.S. media had expressed doubts about the tape.
``This is totally manufactured. It's a drama,'' party spokesman Amirul Azeem told Reuters in Islamabad.
The Pakistani government issued no formal reaction but a Foreign Ministry official, who wished to remain anonymous, said Pakistan needed no convincing over bin Laden's guilt.
Doubts over the videotape were expressed by both moderate and militant Islamic groups in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation.
``I am sick with its (U.S.) propaganda to cover up their war crimes in Afghanistan,'' said Muhammad Rizieq, leader of the radical Islamic Defenders Front. ``You know Americans have all the technology. Making up a videotape is so easy for them.''
The more moderate Nahdlatul Ulama group, which has some 40 million members, was also critical.
``Is Osama the culprit? It still looks rather doubtful, doesn't it?'' said the group's leader Hasyim Muzadi.
In Malaysia, government leaders in the mainly Muslim nation remained silent, but Muslim opposition party members dismissed the tape as a fake.
In Arab states, some called the tape a distraction from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
``The tape... is irrelevant since Arabs have already condemned the attacks in the United States. The focus now should be on Sharon and his criminal acts against the Palestinians, which the U.S. is ignoring,'' an Omani university lecturer said.


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