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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 April, 2004, 19:23 GMT 20:23 UK
'Bin Laden' offers Europe truce
Osama Bin Laden
Bin Laden is widely believed to be still alive
Two Arab TV channels have broadcast an audiotape said to be from Osama Bin Laden in which he offers Europe a truce if it "stops attacking Muslims".

But the speaker in the tape, aired by al-Arabiya and al-Jazeera satellite channels, said the offer would not be extended to the US.

He vowed to avenge Israel's killing of Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell said that, according to the information he had, the voice was Bin Laden's.

CIA analysis had earlier suggested the voice was likely to be that of the al-Qaeda leader.

Attacks 'payment'

The voice on the tape said that "the door is open" for about three months to forge a truce, although this could be extended.

Stop spilling our blood so we can stop spilling your blood
Voice on tape alleged to be Osama Bin Laden

The truce would begin when "the last soldier" leaves "our countries", it added.

However, Spain, Britain, Germany and the European Commission have all rejected such a move, with EC President Romano Prodi saying there was "no possibility for negotiation under [a] terrorist threat".

The tape also refers to the 11 March bombings in the Spanish capital, Madrid, and the events of 11 September 2001.

It said the attacks were payment for US and Spanish actions in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories.

"What happened on 11 September and 11 March are your goods returned to you, so that you know security is a necessity for all," the voice said.

"Stop spilling our blood so we can stop spilling your blood."

Spain has been a prominent member of the US-led coalition in Iraq, although its new prime minister has said Spanish troops could be withdrawn if the situation in Iraq does not improve.

BBC diplomatic correspondent Bridget Kendall says the timing of the tape's release - if it is Osama Bin Laden - is significant, emerging shortly after US President George W Bush gave a major news conference defending US policies on Iraq and met Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Washington.

The tape, she says, could be a propaganda attempt to counter what the US has said about events in the Middle East and Iraq.

It may also be attempting to exploit divisions between European nations and the US and drive a wedge between both sides at a time when tensions on both issues are very high, our correspondent says.

The speaker used the Arabic phrase "mubadarat sulh", which can be translated as "reconciliation initiative" rather than "peace".

But talk of such an initiative is unlikely to lead nations into withdrawing troops from Iraq, our correspondent adds.

Earlier tapes

The tape also criticised US policy for ignoring the "real problem" which is "the occupation of all of Palestine".

Sheikh Ahmed Yassin surrounded by supporters
Sheikh Yassin was killed in March in an Israeli missile attack
It said the death of Sheikh Yassin, spiritual leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, would be avenged.

"We vow before God to take revenge for him from America for this, God willing," it said.

Sheikh Yassin was killed in an Israeli missile attack in March in the Gaza Strip.

The tape also condemned the US-led occupation of Iraq as a money-making scheme for companies making weapons or aiding reconstruction efforts - specifically naming the American firm Halliburton.

Several tapes purporting to be from Osama Bin Laden have surfaced since the 11 September attacks - which the US has blamed on his al-Qaeda network.

The most recent, broadcast in January by al-Jazeera, condemned the occupation of Iraq and attacked Arab nations which supported the war.

The CIA later said that analysis indicated the voice on the January tape was that of Osama Bin Laden.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Ben Brown
"With the olive branch there is also a threat"




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