Aired on Thursday, the audiotape message said the freedom sought by millions in the Islamic world was "not the freedom to destroy others ... it is not the freedom that allows [America] to support oppressive regimes".

 

Al-Zawahiri said he could not accept Washington's continued promotion of "Israel's freedom to annihilate Muslims".

 

The comments were first issued on 2 February on the internet, but were aired for the first time on Thursday.

 

Al-Zawahiri also slammed what he called "fraudulent elections held under occupation", in a reference to last month's polls in Iraq.

 

Details

 

Liberty as construed by the Americans, he said, was based on "usurious banks, giant companies, misleading media outlets and the destruction of others for material gain".

 

Real freedom was "not the liberty of homosexual marriages and

the abuse of women as a commodity to gain clients, win deals or attract tourists," al-Zawahiri added.

 

"It is not the freedom of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib," it said,

referring to US-run prisons in Cuba and Iraq where serious

allegations of torture have been levelled.

  

"Our freedom ... and the reform that we are seeking depends on three concepts - the rule of Sharia [Islamic law] ... freeing Islam from any aggressor ... and liberating the human being."

  

No to occupation

 

In the Islamic world, the people had the "right to choose its

leader, hold him to account and criticise him ... I do not think that we can achieve reform while we are under American and Jewish occupation."

 

Egyptian-born al-Zawahiri is Usama bin Ladin's right-hand man and has been pictured travelling with the al-Qaida leader through Afghanistan.

 

Both he and bin Ladin are believed to be hiding in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and have eluded capture since the 9/11 attacks for which they are blamed.