- 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
- ``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.''
- ``JUST PROPAGANDA''
- 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 kavkaz.org
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
- ``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.