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Powell: Bin Laden Statement Confirms Iraq Link

Usama bin Laden says he "is in partnership with Iraq" in a new statement aired on Arab television Tuesday.

Prior to the tape's release, Secretary of State Colin Powell told the Senate Budget Committee that the audiotape would be aired, and that the voice on the recording was believed to be that of the Al Qaeda mastermind.

On the tape, bin Laden called on Muslims throughout the world to unite behind Iraq.

"We would like to confirm at this time the lies of America and their allies and what they are trying to do. We want you to be faithful in your fight, to believe in your God, the one and only God," bin Laden said on the tape.

The statement, Powell said, shows why the world needs to be concerned about Iraq's ties to Al Qaeda terrorists.

"This nexus between terrorists and states that are developing weapons of mass destruction can no longer be looked away from and ignored," Powell told the committee.

At a separate hearing, CIA Director George Tenet said that he, too, was aware of a new communication from bin Laden.

The Capitol Hill appearance was Powell's second before the Senate since his presentation to the U.N. Security Council last week. At that time, he detailed his indictment of Iraq as a deceptive stockpiler of weapons of mass destruction.

Lawmakers have praised Powell's U.N. performance, but many Democrats remain skeptical about whether war is necessary, particularly if key U.S. allies remain opposed.

The split between the United States and its allies widened when France, Germany and Belgium jointly vetoed on Monday a U.S.-backed measure to authorize NATO to make plans to protect Turkey if Iraq attacks it. Russia then joined France and Germany in demanding strengthened weapons inspections.

Responding to concerns of Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., that the United States was putting its international alliances in jeopardy over Iraq, Powell said "we're not breaking up the alliance."

Powell noted that the U.N. resolution demanding that Iraq disarm was approved unanimously by the Security Council and said it is the United Nations' responsibility to enforce the resolution.

"Who's breaking up the alliance? Not the United States," Powell said. "The alliance is breaking itself up because it will not meet its responsibilities."

Powell noted that while "much is being said about disagreement in NATO," that 16 members -- including the United States and Turkey -- back the U.S. position, while three -- France, Germany and Russia -- oppose it.

"I think this is time for the alliance to say to the fellow alliance member, 'We agree with you and if you are concerned, we are concerned.' That's what alliances are all about and I hope NATO will be doing the right thing with respect to Turkey within the next 24 hours," he said.

Powell said the United States is prepared to work with the 14 other nations to give Turkey the helps it needs if it cannot win formal NATO support.

Committee Chairman Don Nickles, R-Okla., said of France "I'm amazed at their presumption that they are controlling the (NATO) alliance, but they are not a part of the military alliance."

France's stand on Turkey could signal its steadfast opposition or even a threatened veto to a U.S.-backed resolution at the United Nations that would authorize force to disarm Iraq and remove President Saddam Hussein from power.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said earlier Tuesday there was still a reasonable expectation that President Bush could persuade the Security Council to adopt a new resolution.

"At the end of the day, the president would like to believe the United Nations will be relevant," he told reporters.

In Brussels, a second day of heated negotiations failed to end one of the worst crises in NATO's 53-year history: a split triggered when France, Germany and Belgium blocked U.S. plans to defend Turkey in a possible new Persian Gulf war. After behind-the-scene talks throughout the day, ambassadors from the 19 NATO countries met for only 20 minutes Tuesday evening before ending the session.

In Iraq, U.N. weapons inspectors paid a surprise visit to a Baghdad missile plant Tuesday as international experts met behind closed doors in New York to assess whether Iraq's short-range missiles can fly farther than permitted under U.N. edicts.

At the U.N. Security Council, the United States began consultations with other countries on a new resolution designed to strengthen Bush's hand if he should decide to go to war. He also is reserving the option of going to war outside the United Nations, with a coalition of supporting nations.

Bush said Monday that France was a longtime friend of the United States, but said its position was shortsighted. "I hope they'll reconsider," he said.

"Upset is not the proper word," Bush said when reporters asked for his views on France's diplomacy. He went on to register his disappointment with President Jacques Chirac, who wants to extend inspections and seek a peaceful resolution with Saddam.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.