- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 15, 2009

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates | Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden accused some Arab leaders of being “complicit” with Israel and the West against Muslims and urged holy war to liberate the Palestinian territories, in an audiotape broadcast by Al Jazeera television on Saturday.

“It has become clear that some Arab leaders were complicit with the crusader Zionist alliance against our people. These are the leaders that America calls moderate,” said bin Laden, without singling out any leaders.

“The countries of the Muslim world from Indonesia to Mauritania are divided into two: Some of them are crooked, while others are even more crooked,” he added, in excerpts of the tape aired by the Doha, Qatar-based channel.

In the tape, whose authenticity could not be confirmed, bin Laden labeled the devastating offensive by Israel against Gaza at the new year as a holocaust.

“The holocaust of Gaza amid a long siege is an important historical event that confirms the importance of distinguishing between Muslims and hypocrites,” said the al Qaeda leader, who carries a $25 million bounty on his head.

He called on jihadists to “liberate” Iraq from the U.S. military and then launch attacks on Israel from Jordan.

“We should work hard and prepare for jihad in order to bring about what is right,” said bin Laden, who is widely thought to have found refuge in Pakistan’s largely lawless tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan.

Bin Laden also suggested compiling a list of people “whose efforts serve our enemies” and said committees should be formed in Muslim countries to raise awareness among citizens. He did not elaborate.

The United States downplayed the recording, saying there was nothing new in it.

“Al Qaeda addresses these themes with some frequency, and at this point, there doesn’t appear to be anything new here,” a counterterrorism official told AFP. “These are well-worn themes for al Qaeda.”

The tape was the second by bin Laden in two months in which he has focused on the Gaza offensive.

The 22-day Israeli offensive on Gaza, which ended Jan. 18 and killed more than 1,300 Palestinians, caused a rift between Egypt and Saudi Arabia on the one hand and Syria and Qatar on the other.

Egypt faced criticism for refusing to permanently open its Rafah border crossing with Gaza, and Syria accused it of bias toward the Palestinian Fatah movement in reconciliation talks with rival faction Hamas, Gaza’s rulers.

Cairo has lashed out at Arab countries it says have done nothing to help the Palestinian cause and offer only rhetoric. It also has criticized Iran, which backed Hamas during the war, for “interfering” in an Arab cause.

Egypt is still acting as a broker in a bid to secure a permanent truce in the Gaza conflict after Israel and Hamas declared unilateral cease-fires on Jan. 18.

At the same time, it is mediating talks aimed at bringing an end to the rift between Hamas and Fatah that would see the two leading factions agree on a unity government.

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