Purported Zawahiri Statement Blasts Iraq Vote

In a clear reference to Iraq's weekend balloting, a statement purportedly made by Usama bin Laden's top deputy says holy war, not "rigged elections," is the only path for reform in Islamic nations.

The written statement, said to have been the transcript of an audio taped recording of a speech by Al Qaeda (search) No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri (search), first appeared on several Islamist Internet sites Tuesday.

"Reform can't be achieved under governments installed by the (foreign) occupier through rigged elections conducted under the supervision of the United Nations and protected by B-52s and Apache helicopter rockets," al-Zawahiri said. "There is no reform except through holy war."

It was not immediately possible to authenticate the statement. The audiotape itself was inaccessible on several militant Web sites where it had been posted.

Iraq's Association of Muslim Scholars (search) months ago urged Sunnis to shun the polls because of the presence of U.S. and other foreign troops, while insurgents threatened to kill anyone who voted in Sunday's polls, in which Shiites and Kurds turned out in huge numbers.

Islamic militants, led by Al Qaeda in Iraq terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (search), claimed responsibility for numerous bombings and attacks against polling stations Sunday.

Al-Zawahiri, who is believed to be hiding with bin Laden in remote, mountainous regions along the Pakistani-Afghanistan border, renewed his attack on the United States for invading Afghanistan and Iraq, saying, "America is seeking by every means to fight the Islamic community."

The undated statement also referred to recent events like Egypt's December signing of a trade agreement with Israel and the United States.

The deal paves the way for establishing Qualified Industrial Zones, where Egypt — which signed a 1979 peace treaty with Israel — can export goods to America duty-free as long as a minimum 11.7 percent of their value is made in the Jewish state.

"No reform could be achieved while our (Arab) rulers are pursuing a normalization policy with Israel to destroy our economy to achieve their personal interests," the statement said.