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Purported bin Laden message: Iraq is 'perfect base'

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  • NEW: Speaker: My speech is about "siege of Gaza and the way to liberate it"
  • NEW: Iraq base is ideal "to set up the jihad to liberate Palestine," he says
  • NEW: Bin Laden allegedly urges support for "mujahedeen brothers in Iraq"
  • The identity of the speaker has not been confirmed by CNN
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(CNN) -- Al-Jazeera broadcast on Thursday an audiotape on which a voice identified as Osama bin Laden declares "Iraq is the perfect base to set up the jihad to liberate Palestine."

Terrorist leader Osama bin Laden spoke on a video released by al Qaeda in September.

The voice calls on "Muslims in neighboring countries" to "do their best in supporting their mujahedeen brothers in Iraq."

"My speech to you is about the siege of Gaza and the way to liberate it," he said.

"The Gaza siege is a direct result of Annapolis," he adds, apparently referring to the site of November's summit in Annapolis, Maryland, where Israeli and Palestinian leadership agreed to work toward a two-state plan.

He accused Arabs who supported the plan of having become "partners in this horrendous crime."

And he predicted, "Palestine will be restored to us, with God's permission, when we wake up from our slumber and adhere to our faith and sacrifice our souls and belongings for it."

The speaker called for armed revolt in the Middle East.

"Palestine and its people have been suffering from too much bitterness for almost a century now on the hands of the Christians and the Jews. And both parties didn't take Palestine from us by negotiations and dialogue, but with arms and fire, and this is the only way to take it back," he said. Though the voice sounds like bin Laden, CNN has not been able to confirm that it is him. However, a radical Islamist Web site reported earlier Wednesday that a statement from bin Laden was coming soon.

The notice appeared on Al-Ekhlaas, known for carrying statements and videos from al Qaeda and its allies.

Analysis of previous statements has indicated that bin Laden was the speaker, and a U.S. intelligence official said there was no reason to think the recorded voice was not bin Laden's.

The broadcast comes a day after another statement attributed to the al Qaeda leader condemned European countries for siding with the United States in Afghanistan and for allowing the publication of cartoons considered insulting to Islam's prophet, Mohammed.

"This is the greater and more serious tragedy, and the reckoning for it will be more severe," the speaker in the five-minute audio recording says.

The speaker said Muslims have not responded by mocking Jesus, whom they consider a prophet as well.

"The laws of men which clash with the legislation of Allah the Most High are null and void, aren't sacred and don't matter to us," he said.

The speaker dismissed claims of free speech in his statement, citing European countries' laws against denying the existence of the Holocaust.

Bin Laden also said in his earlier message that "the crownless king in Riyadh" -- Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah -- could have prevented the publication of the cartoons "if it mattered to him."

"If there is no check on the freedom of your words, then let your hearts be open to the freedom of our actions," he said.

Bin Laden, who was behind the terrorist network's September 11 attacks, has been in hiding since the U.S. assault on Afghanistan that followed those strikes.

His last public statement was an audio message issued in December, when he urged his followers in Iraq to continue battling U.S. troops there.

Wednesday marked the fifth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

The latest statement included no date reference beyond the cartoon controversy, which began in late 2005 when a Danish newspaper published a dozen cartoons about Islam, including one that depicted Mohammed wearing a turban resembling a bomb.

Violent protests erupted in early 2006 after other European newspapers reprinted the images as a matter of free speech.

Some Muslims believe it is forbidden by the Quran to show an image of the prophet at all, and others were offended that the cartoon by artist Kurt Westergaard appeared to depict Mohammed as a terrorist.

Westergaard said he wanted his cartoon to say that some people exploited the prophet to legitimize terror.

Several newspapers in Denmark reprinted the controversial cartoons in February after Danish authorities arrested several people who were said to be plotting a "terror-related assassination" of the cartoonist.

That sparked violent protests in three Afghan cities this month, with Muslim students burning flags and chanting anti-Western statements.

The message said the publication of the drawings in question "came in the framework of a new crusade in which the Pope of the Vatican has played a large, lengthy role."

Pope Benedict is scheduled to visit the United States next month, with scheduled stops at the White House, the United Nations and Ground Zero, where the Twin Towers stood until al Qaeda's attack.

Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne of the New York City Police Department said the department "has been working closely with the United States Secret Service to provide the highest level of protection possible" during the Pope's visit to New York. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Octavia Nasr and Pam Benson contributed to this report.

All About Osama bin LadenSeptember 11 AttacksIraq WarAl Qaeda

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