- The Washington Times - Monday, April 20, 2009

CAIRO (AP) - Al-Qaida’s No. 2 leader has ridiculed President Barack Obama’s plan to increase troop numbers in Afghanistan in a new Internet audio recording released Monday.

Ayman al-Zawahri also urged al-Qaida in Iraq to “break the borders” of neighboring countries and liberate Jerusalem from the Israelis, whom he called “crusader invaders.”

Al-Zawahri’s comments were posted on a militant Web site Monday and came as the Obama administration plans to increase troop levels in Afghanistan and start withdrawing forces from Iraq.

“What Obama is doing by increasing the troops is adding more fuel to the fire that is already burning,” he said.

Much of the message to the American people focused on Obama, who al-Zawahri maintained is as widely hated among Muslims as was his predecessor, George W. Bush.

“The new president Obama has not changed the image of America in the eyes of the Muslims because America is still killing Muslims in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan, stealing their wealth and, occupying their lands and supporting the treacherous rulers,” he said.

Obama’s recent speech in Turkey in which he said America was not at war with Islam was generally well received across Muslim world.

Osama bin Laden’s top lieutenant also criticized Pakistan’s U.S.-allied government for its attempts to make deals with Muslim fundamentalists along its border with Afghanistan in hopes of draining support for extremists.

He accused Obama of encouraging Pakistan’s government to make such deals, calling the strategy “a delusion.”

“Obama is cheating you, the problem will not end there. It will escalate,” he said.

The U.S. has expressed concern about the Pakistani government’s peace efforts in the region.

Al-Zawahri also warned the Obama administration against any cooperation with Iran in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

“The more you cooperate with Iran, the more hatred you will generate from Muslims,” he said.

In the 41-minute recording, al-Zawahri also criticized Egypt’s mediation in talks between rival Palestinian factions. He said those talks are aimed at pressuring the Islamic Hamas group to accept peace with Israel.

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