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Pakistan led by 'robber president,' al Qaeda No. 2 says

By the CNN Wire Staff
An image grab taken from a video broadcast on Al Jazeera television on 20 December 2006 shows Ayman al-Zawahiri.
An image grab taken from a video broadcast on Al Jazeera television on 20 December 2006 shows Ayman al-Zawahiri.
  • Asif Ali Zardari's party dismisses claims
  • In video, Ayman al-Zawahiri blames Pakistan for cooperation with U.S. war efforts
  • The statement claims Zardari is failing the Pakistani people

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- Al Qaeda's second-in-command lashed out at the Pakistani government in a video statement released Wednesday, saying it had turned on its people by cooperating with the United States and its allies.

The video was posted on an Islamist website that typically hosts such messages and was translated by CNN. The video included English captions.

In the video, Ayman al-Zawahiri referred to Pakistan's leader, Asif Ali Zardari, as a "robber president" who can't deal with the aftermath of devastating floods that have inundated the country.

Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Basit dismissed Zawahiri's claims and said: "Zawahiri's claims are not worth our reaction."

A spokesman for Zardari's ruling Pakistan People's Party, Fouzia Wahab, also blasted Zawahiri's remarks:

"The president is not a robber, he was voted in by two-thirds of parliamentarians. How can people elect a robber as president?" Wahab said.

"The president is fully engaged in dealing with the people's tragedy and God is with him."

Zawahiri also linked Zardari to the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan and to allegations of American desecrations of Qurans.

The people of Pakistan are sinning by being silent against the current administration, Zawahiri said.

Zawahiri also expressed condolences for victims of the recent flooding in Pakistan. More than 1,600 people have died, according to the country's disaster authority, and at least 17 million Pakistanis have been affected.

In the video, Zawahiri declared that he wished for al Qaeda to be there to help with aid efforts, "but the treasonous ruling class in the Pakistani government and army came -- and continues to come -- between us and this honor, as a service to the senior criminals in Washington, London and Tel Aviv."

The al Qaeda second-in-command also took aim at what he characterized as American manipulation of the transition from former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to Zardari and claimed that the United States was trying to do the same with the presidential candidacy of Mohamed ElBaradei in Egypt.

"There must be awareness of the flimsiness of the position which says that we might be able to achieve our liberty, honor and dignity by rallying around American influence and following its emissaries," he said. "All this flimsy call will bring us is a move from one vassalage to another vassalage and from one corruption to another corruption."

Journalist Nasir Habib contributed to this report.