- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 11, 2003

WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 (UPI) — White House and State Department officials Tuesday confirmed the authenticity of an audiotape with Osama bin Laden's voice aired on the al Jazeera network in which the al Qaida leader urges the Iraqi people to engage in martyrdom operations against American "crusaders."

On the tape, bin Laden says: "Those who attack your brothers cannot be your friend. Fight with them, even if it means sacrificing your life for defending your brothers. Iraq is not an aggressor, America is." He went on to say, "We hope that our brothers in Iraq will learn from our martyrs to fight them as we did before. … It is not us but our martyrs that they fear. We need martyrs to defeat the enemies and instill fear in their hearts as they did against the Americans and the Israelis before."

In the 16-minute tape, bin Laden predicts a great battle between Iraq and the United States and urges the Iraqis to remain strong and hold their military positions. He also says a U.S. war against Iraq is meant to expand a greater Israel. "It is the infidel who is attacking you. And in this war we are with you. Fight in the name of God and you will win," bin Laden says in a section directed at the Iraqi people.

On the tape, bin Laden also threatens numerous Arab and Islamic nations that have recently cooperated with the United States including Jordan, Morocco, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Yemen — whom he refers to as "American agents among the Muslims." "Beware your time has come. Decide whether you are with the Muslims or with their enemies," bin Laden says.

U.S. officials said Tuesday that they believed the voice to be bin Laden's. Responding in an interview on al Jazeera following the network's airing of the tape, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said bin Laden "threatens everybody in the Arab world except (Iraqi leader) Saddam Hussein. He says he wants to fight with Saddam Hussein." Boucher later said this "confirmed that Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein have common cause."

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said earlier Tuesday at a Senate hearing that the new tape is believed to bear the voice of bin Laden and that the transcript of the tape shows the al Qaida leader is "in partnership with Iraq." "I read the transcript of what bin Laden, or who we believe to be bin Laden, will be saying on al Jazeera during the course of the day, and you will 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 told the Senate Budget Committee.

Boucher said the new tape helped bolster the case that Iraqi has cooperated to some degree with al Qaida. Last week, Powell laid out before the United Nations the U.S. intelligence showing high-level meetings between al Qaida officials and Iraqi intelligence dating to the early 1990s in Sudan. Powell also said Iraq opened its borders to al Qaida operatives fleeing Afghanistan last year and displayed aerial photographs of a poisons- and explosives-training camp near the Iran-Iraq border operated by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a senior operative in bin Laden's organization. Powell said last week that al-Zarqawi had sought and received medical treatment in Baghdad last spring.

Neither Boucher nor the White House offered information on exactly how the United States obtained knowledge of the tape. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said, "These tapes float around from time to time, and there's conversation about them, information is provided or shared about them, and indeed al Jazeera plays them."

The tape is the first broadcast to the world from bin Laden since an audiotape of what U.S. officials believe to be his voice was released in November in which he claims credit for the bombing of a hotel resort in Bali and an attack on a movie theater in Moscow.

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