LONDON – America's key allies in the war on terrorism said Thursday the newly released Usama bin Laden videotape justifies the military campaign in Afghanistan to root out those responsible for the Sept. 11 suicide attacks.
However, in the Mideast, many Arabs said the scratchy video doesn't provide evidence of bin Laden's guilt and may even have been fabricated.
"By boasting about his involvement in the evil attacks, bin Laden confirms his guilt," said British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. "This totally vindicates the action that we, the U.S. and the international coalition have taken in Afghanistan."
Straw said the video provided "chilling evidence of his complete disregard for human life."
Despite the poor quality of the video, the British government said it had no doubt it was genuine. It had been subjected to numerous tests by U.S. scientists who compared bin Laden's voice and image to those in previous tapes, Downing Street said.
"The matches in every case were identical. So, we have no doubt at all about the authenticity of the tape," Prime Minister Tony Blair's office said.
But some viewers in the Mideast differed, saying the video did not convince them of bin Laden's involvement. The sound quality on the tape was so poor that even native Arabic speakers had to rely on the U.S.-provided translations, undercutting its impact in the Arab world.
"Of course it is fabricated," said Dia'a Rashwan, a Cairo-based expert on Islamic movements, as he watched the tape on the Qatari satellite channel Al-Jazeera.
"If this is the kind of evidence that America has, then the blood of thousands who died and were injured in Afghanistan is on [President] Bush's head," he said.
In Pakistan, the chief government spokesman, Gen. Rashid Quereshi, said the sight of bin Laden praising the suicide attacks and saying the destruction exceeded his estimates proved that Islamabad had made the "the right decision" in supporting Washington.
Before U.S. and British forces drove Afghanistan's Taliban government out of power, Pakistan had strongly supported the Islamic regime, which allowed bin Laden, a Saudi exile, and his Al Qaeda network to train terrorists in the South Asian country.
But once U.S. forces and Afghanistan's northern alliance began fighting the Taliban after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, Pakistan's military government joined the campaign, playing key support roles.
Elsewhere, the governments of Canada and Israel also praised the release of the video, with Raanan Gissin, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, condemning bin Laden for laughing and rejoicing over the deadly deeds.
For Samir Rantisi, a senior adviser of Palestinian Ministry of Information, the tape proved that bin Laden and Al Qaeda were solely responsible, ending reckless speculation that Palestinians had been involved.
In the videotape, released by the Pentagon on Thursday and shown on TV around the world, bin Laden said he had been "the most optimistic of them all" in calculating how burning jet fuel from the two hijacked jetliners would damage World Trade Center. Thousands of people died when the twin towers were destroyed. Bin Laden also called the hijackings a martyrdom operation that "benefited Islam greatly."
It was not immediately possible to gauge public reaction to the video in the heavily damaged Afghan capital of Kabul, where a nightly curfew was in force and most people don't have access to satellite TV.
In many of the region's Arab countries, public opinion has been solidly against the United States, with many complaining that the war on terrorism is targeting innocent Muslims.
In Jordan, political analyst Labib Kamhawi said, at most, the video shows bin Laden praising the attacks, but "does not prove that bin Laden was responsible for" them.
Mohamed Salah, an Egyptian expert on militant Islamic movements who writes for the London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat, said bin Laden may have left the tape behind in the Afghan city of Jalalabad on purpose so the Americans would show it and show the world that he played a role in the terrorist attacks in the United States. Bin Laden no longer has anything to lose by claiming responsibility, Salah said.