- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A copy of Osama bin Laden’s latest audiotape was delivered to a U.N. office in Quetta, Pakistan, and is being studied by the world organization’s officials, a well-placed source said.

He said the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Baluchistan province, which borders Afghanistan, received the tape last week and sent it on to the U.N. headquarters in New York.

U.N. officials familiar with the contents of the tape say the message appears to be identical to the one broadcast by Al Jazeera television Thursday, according to the source, who asked not to be identified.

Stephan Dujarric, the secretary-general’s spokesman, denied the United Nations had received a tape. But a second U.N. source told UPI, “Actually, there are a couple more copies of the tape going around besides the ones sent to the U.N. and Al Jazeera.”

The second source, who also declined to be identified, did not have details.

Following receipt of the tape in Quetta, another U.N. office in the area received a telephone threat purportedly from al Qaeda, and all U.N. staffers were immediately withdrawn from Baluchistan province.

A source in Washington told UPI yesterday that the tape received by the United Nations has since been handed over to U.S. intelligence officials.

This is believed to be the first time that a tape from bin Laden or any other al Qaeda figure has been sent directly to the United Nations. The speculation is the terrorist leader is trying to draw the world organization into a discussion on his vague carrot-and-stick offer of a truce to the American people.

According to the Al Jazeera version of the tape, bin Laden’s message — his first public utterance in just over a year — proposes “a long-term truce based on fair conditions, which we will abide by” if U.S. troops are withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The conditions are not specified. He also threatens more attacks on the United States, which he says are “under preparation.”

U.S. intelligence analysts have pronounced the tape authentic and said Al Jazeera’s estimate that it was made some time in December is probably right.

The Bush administration promptly rejected the truce offer. “We don’t negotiate with terrorists. We put them out of business,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan said last week.

Bin Laden may be counting on his offer being viewed differently in the United Nations, where the U.S. presence in Iraq is widely unpopular.

Moreover, if bin Laden is trying to appear statesmanlike, it makes sense to establish contact with the United Nations.

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