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Bergen: Bin Laden issued solidarity statement

Peter Bergen
Peter Bergen

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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- The Qatar-based Arab language network Al-Jazeera Tuesday broadcast an audiotape purported to be al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden urging all Muslims to join forces against any U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and against any Arab leader supporting America.

CNN Anchor Kyra Phillips discussed the tape's authenticity and its themes with CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen, who has interviewed bin Laden.

PHILLIPS: We're not hearing anything specific with regard to a link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, or a U.S. invasion of Iraq. I mean, this seems to be pretty general thus far, sort of a message to Muslims, a spiritual message if you will. What do you think thus far?

BERGEN: He has mentioned the impending invasion of Iraq. He hasn't mentioned anything to do with Saddam Hussein. So far, it is just a solidarity statement about the war in Iraq, not necessarily linked to the regime. In terms of the authenticity of the tape, I mean, I've heard bin Laden's voice many times. I'm pretty confident that's him.

Al-Jazeera has had a 100 percent success rate, as it were, in terms of identifying bin Laden's tapes and putting out tapes that have turned out to be authentic. Clearly Secretary of State Colin Powell believed it to be authentic when he talked about it this morning. I believe it is authentic, would be very surprising if it weren't.

It just sounds like him. I mean, I've listened enough times to his voice to think -- to know this sounds very like him.

PHILLIPS: So if indeed this is him -- I mean, headline here: Osama bin Laden is alive?

BERGEN: We knew that already, actually. In October, a four- minute tape was released which referenced the Bali blast which happened in October. It was a very brief tape of four minutes, but it made the kinds of references that indicated that it would be made sometime in perhaps -- sometime in October. So we knew that he was alive.

We also know -- we have another audiotape from his No. 2, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, who is also very important in the organization. Essentially, we know that the two leaders of al Qaeda remain alive today.

PHILLIPS: What about his message?

BERGEN: He's hitting a lot of the themes he has hit in the past. One theme we heard was calling for the overthrow of the Saudi monarchy, essentially, which is something that he's been calling for for more than a decade. He also talked about overthrowing the governments in Morocco, Nigeria, and Jordan, all of whom he regards as being too pro-American. That has been part of his general world view that most Middle Eastern regimes need to be replaced by more Islamic regimes.

PHILLIPS: We still have not heard an actual identifiable link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, right?

BERGEN: I'd be very surprised if he does. I mean, you know, Osama bin Laden has long been on the record as supporting the Iraqi people against what he regards as the oppression of the West. He rarely brings Saddam into that. So that in past statements that he's made, he tends to lump Saddam together with other Middle Eastern rulers that he doesn't like. So I would be surprised if he has nice things to say about Saddam.


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