- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 19, 2006

Osama bin Laden offered the U.S. a “truce” in Iraq and Afghanistan in a new audiotape aired yesterday on Al Jazeera Arabic-language TV — a proposal the White House rejected immediately.

“We don’t negotiate with terrorists,” Vice President Dick Cheney said. “I think you have to destroy them.”

Bin Laden, who ordered the September 11 attacks and is supporting jihadist suicide bombers in Iraq and Afghanistan, also warned that plans to attack America are under way.

A U.S. counterterror official said the CIA authenticated the tape as the voice of bin Laden, who last surfaced 13 months ago in an audiotape in which he endorsed Abu Musab Zarqawi’s campaign of killing in Iraq.

In a four-minute excerpt of the new tape, bin Laden said he had “the way to end” the fighting. He said his new message was a direct appeal to the American people, an apparent attempt to exploit President Bush’s low job approval ratings because of the Iraq war.

“The war in Iraq is raging and operations in Afghanistan are on the rise in our favor,” he said. “Iraq has become a point of attraction and recruitment of qualified resources.”

Bin Laden raised the prospect of a cease-fire, but did not provide a plan.

“We do not object to a long-term truce with you on the basis of fair conditions we respect. … In this truce, both parties will enjoy security and stability and we will build Iraq and Afghanistan, which were destroyed by the war,” he said.

“There is no defect in this solution other than preventing the flow of hundreds of billions to the influential people and war merchants in America, who supported Bush’s election campaign with billions of dollars.”

Mr. Cheney called talk of a truce a “ploy.”

“I don’t think anybody would believe him,” he said on Fox News Channel.

Bin Laden, in his many messages and press interviews dating back to the 1990s, has never spoken before of a truce, only war.

Since bin Laden’s last message in December 2004, he has seen a wave of democracy in his region. Iraqis ignored his earlier call to boycott elections and participated overwhelmingly in three elections to pick a temporary parliament, approve a new constitution and then elect a permanent assembly. Afghanistan has elected a permanent government.

“I think, clearly, if you look at the last time we heard from bin Laden, you can see the kind of pressure he’s under,” said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. “Last time, remember, he was telling the Iraqi people not to show up and vote. Well, we saw how that turned out.”

Bin Laden mocked Mr. Bush’s argument that new security measures have foiled attacks on U.S. soil the past four years.

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