Jazeera - Bin Laden Urges
Muslims To Defend Iraq

By Samia Nakhoul

DUBAI (Reuters) - An audio message said to be from fugitive militant Osama bin Laden urged Muslims Tuesday to fight the United States and Israel and repel any "war of infidels" against Iraq.
The audio tape, broadcast on the al-Jazeera television network, said suicide attacks were important in fighting for the Muslim cause, and warned Arab leaders against giving any support to a war against Iraq.
"We are following with great concern the preparations of the crusaders to launch war on the former capital of Muslims...and to install a puppet government," the statement said.
"Fight these despots. I remind you that victory comes only from God."
U.S. intelligence analysts believed it was bin Laden's voice on the tape, a U.S. official said.
The statement did not express support for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein -- it said Muslims should support the Iraqi people rather than the country's government.
"The fighting should be in the name of God only, not in the name of national ideologies, nor to seek victory for the ignorant governments that rule all Arab states, including Iraq," the statement said.
Earlier this month, Saddam said he had no links with al Qaeda. Bin Laden has often criticized Saddam in the past.
The United States said the tape was evidence of a partnership between Iraq and bin Laden's al Qaeda network, blamed for the September 11 attacks on U.S. cities.
Secretary of State Colin Powell told the U.S. Senate Budget Committee earlier Tuesday that he had read a transcript of the tape.
Powell told lawmakers they would "be seeing this as the day unfolds, where once again he speaks to the people of Iraq and talks about their struggle and how he is in partnership with Iraq."
Powell cited this as a reason the United States could not rely on just containing Iraq with more weapons inspectors and a greater United Nations presence.
"This nexus between terrorists and states that are developing weapons of mass destruction can no longer be looked away from and ignored," Powell said.
Statements from bin Laden have often been issued shortly before or after attacks blamed on his al Qaeda network.
Commenting on the authenticity of the latest tape, the U.S. official said: "Those who are familiar with his voice say 'it sounds a lot like him.' But they have not done technical analysis yet to know with absolute certainty, but it seems to be."
The United States raised its national threat alert level last week to orange -- the second highest -- citing intelligence reports of a threat from groups linked to al Qaeda.
The United States says it does not know where bin Laden is, or whether he is alive or dead, after he evaded capture in Afghanistan in 2001. But U.S. officials said last year an audio recording broadcast on al-Jazeera in November and purported to be from bin Laden was almost certainly genuine.
The tape was considered the strongest evidence so far that bin Laden survived the war in Afghanistan.
Al-Jazeera has often received audio tapes and statements said to come from bin Laden, blamed for the September 11 attacks on U.S. cities. The United States has accused the Arab TV channel of being a mouthpiece for al Qaeda propaganda.



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