By Magdi Abdelhadi
BBC regional analyst
An audio tape attributed to Osama Bin Laden has offered to suspend operations against European countries if they stop supporting the US occupation of Iraq and its war on terror.
Bin Laden has not been sighted since 2001
The tape aired on Arabic satellite stations said attacks on European and American targets were not terrorism, but were merely retaliation for aggression on Muslims in Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq.
The voice on the tape - which is most likely that of Osama Bin Laden - addresses his message to European public opinion, describing it as "our neighbours north of the Mediterranean".
The craftily worded broadcast contained a classical left-wing analysis of the relationship between war and multinational companies.
The voice said such firms were the only beneficiaries of war and destruction - something the author apparently knows will go down well among leftist sectors of public opinion.
The aim is clearly to drive a wedge between Europe and the United States - but also more crucially between European politicians who support Washington and their electorates.
"Your politicians ignore that the real problem is the occupation of Palestine," the speaker said.
"It is your politicians who send your sons to kill and be killed despite your opposition to the war. We are just like you, victims of injustice perpetrated by your politicians.
"But is your blood more valuable than our blood?" the speaker asks rhetorically.
He defended the attacks on American and European targets, saying they were not terrorism but were retaliation for aggression on Muslims in Palestine, Afghanistan and now Iraq.
Finally, he offers what he describes as an initiative of reconciliation for European governments that agree to pull their troops out of Muslim countries within three months from the date of the announcement.
It is not clear when exactly the tape was recorded, but the timing of the broadcast could not have come at a better time for al-Qaeda.
Coming in the wake of President Bush's endorsement of Israel's plan to annex parts of the West Bank, it may contribute to an increased radicalisation of public opinion in the Arab world and hostility to Washington.