New Usama bin Laden Tape Slams Palestinian Negotiations, Urges Holy War for Liberation

Pan-Arab Al-Jazeera TV on Thursday broadcast what it described as excerpts from a new audio tape by Usama bin Laden in which the Al Qaeda leader slammed Palestinian negotiations with Israel and urged holy war for the liberation of Palestine.

In the audio excerpts broadcast by the Doha, Qatar-based television, bin Laden said that "Palestine cannot be retaken by negotiations and dialogue, but with fire and iron."

Bin Laden also called on Palestinians who are unable to fight in the "land of Al-Quds" — a Muslim reference to Jerusalem — to join the Al Qaeda fight and the holy war, or jihad, in Iraq.

"The nearest field of jihad today to support our people in Palestine is the Iraqi field," bin Laden said.

"We tell our brothers in Palestine who could not join the jihad in the land of Al-Quds, to get rid of illusions of political parties and groups which are mired in trickery of the blasphemous democracy and to take their positions among the ranks of the mujahideen in Iraq," he said.

Such a Palestinian fight in Iraq should be "concentrated on and supported by all Muslims, specially from neighboring countries," bin Laden added and also called on people of Syria, Lebanon Jordan and Saudi Arabia to "help in support of their mujahedeen brothers in Iraq, which is the greatest opportunity and the biggest task."

If proven to be that of bin Laden, the audio will be the second by the Al Qaeda leader publicized in as many days.

Al-Jazeera TV did not say how it obtained the recording, which was broadcast with an old photograph of bin Laden in a white headscarf and traditional Arab dress.

There was no indication how recently the recording was made — or if it could have been an unreleased part of another audiotape, posted late Wednesday on a militant Web site that has carried al-Qaida statements in the past.

In that recording, bin Laden accused Pope Benedict XVI of helping in a "new Crusade" against Islam and warned of a "severe" reaction for Europeans' publication of cartoons seen by Muslims as insulting Islam's Prophet Muhammad.

In the tape broadcast on Al-Jazeera, bin Laden said the sufferings of the Palestinians in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip began when treacherous Arab leaders began supporting the U.S.-hosted Mideast peace conference in Annapolis and the "Zionist entity."

The mention of by bin Laden of the Annapolis, Maryland, summit last November was the only time reference given in the audio.

"By their support, they are considered partners to this horrible crime," bin Laden said of Arab leaders who have backed the Mideast peace talks.

"Palestine will not return to us with the negotiations by the submissive rulers, their conferences nor by demonstrations and elections," he said. "Palestine will come back to us if we awaken from our ignorance and adhere to our religion and sacrifice our lives and means to it."

The message was the first time bin Laden spoke of the Palestinian question at length.

Her appeared to be seeking to merge the Palestinian cause into the wider Al Qaeda struggle.

"My nation," bin Laden addressed his followers, "You have a great opportunity to regain your freedom and get out of being a follower of this Zionist-crusade alliance and to do this, you have to free yourself from the chains of humiliation thrown on us by the agents of this alliance, the rulers of our countries."

In Israel, Foreign Ministry spokesman Arye Mekel told The Associated Press that Israel does not comment on bin Laden's statements.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said, "We and the international community must prove him wrong, because we have been pursuing peace through negotiations, and I believe the parties involved must make every effort to make the year 2008 a year of peace."