Speaking to reporters in Shanghai on Thursday, European Commission President Romano Prodi asked: "How could you possibly react to this statement?

"There is no possibility for a deal under a terrorist threat. It is completely impossible." 
 
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw dismissed the offer to European nations out of hand.

"One has to treat such claims, [such] proposals by al-Qaida, with the contempt which they deserve," Straw said in London alongside visiting Polish Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz. Cimoszewicz dismissed the offer on the tape as a "trick".

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told reporters in Rome that discussing a peace deal with bin Ladin would be "unthinkable".

The offer of peace, if European countries withdrew troops from Muslim nations, was made on an audio tape broadcast by Aljazeera.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell on Thursday hailed Europe's quick and summary rejection of the truce offer, calling it a clear statement that "we will not be terrorised by this terrorist".

Europe's rapid rejection "was a very direct and clear reaction," said Powell.

German dismissal

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder also rejected bin Laden's offer to European nations and said any attempt to divide Europe would fail.

Bin Ladin (L) and al-Zawahiri aim
to end US-led occupation of Iraq

"Each attempt to divide Europe, from wherever it comes, will founder against the unity of Europe," said Schroeder in a brief interview on German television.

"The Madrid attacks have shown that - independently of our positions on the war in Iraq … Europe as a whole is threatened and must respond with one voice to the threat," he told ZDF television during a visit to the Dutch city of Rotterdam.

But Germany, a fierce opponent of the US-led war in Iraq, has repeatedly ruled out sending troops to the war-ravaged country.

France: No troops

Speaking from the Algerian capital on Thursday, French President Jacques Chirac made no comment on the al-Qaida offer.

But he confirmed that Paris was not considering sending troops to Iraq under some sort of United Nations mandate.

"France believes a conference bringing together all elements of Iraqi society will, perhaps, give the political transition the legitimacy it needs until such time as elections are held," Chirac told a news conference after meeting President Abd al-Aziz Butaflika.

"The only possible solution is a political one," he said.

"This means a swift, complete and visible transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis themselves and the creation of Iraqi institutions that are genuinely representative, legitimate and fully responsible."