Bin Laden condemns Gaza siege

Al-Qaeda leader says Muslims should support the Palestinians by fighting in Iraq.

    The audiotape is the second to be released
    by Osama bin Laden in the last 24 hours

    "The suffocating siege imposed upon the Gaza Strip came into existence after the support offered by the Arab governments to the US and Zionist entity in Annapolis at the expense of the resistance in Palestine," the voice said.
     
    Last November's conference in Annapolis, Maryland, restarted the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
     
    Cartoon controversy
     
    The tape, whose authenticity could not be immediately verified, came a day following another audio message in which bin Laden warned Europe of a "reckoning" for publishing controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed.
     
    Addressing the "intelligent ones" in the European Union, the speaker said publishing the "insulting drawings" was a greater crime than Western forces targeting Muslim villages and killing women and children.
     
    "The reckoning for it will be more severe," he said. 
     
    Bin Laden said in the message that the publication of the cartoons was part of a "new crusade" involving Pope Benedict.
     
    The Vatican rejected the accusations.
     
    Reverand Federico Lombardi, the chief Vatican spokesman said: "It is natural to think that he would lump the Vatican and the Pope together with all his perceived enemies. But this is not correct."
     
    Earlier on Thursday, the White House said that US intelligence chiefs were confident that the voice on the tape released on Wednesday was that of the al-Qaeda.
     
    The message coincided with the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war.
     
    Bin Laden has claimed responsibility for the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, which killed nearly 3,000 people and prompted the US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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