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Last Updated: Friday, 10 November 2006, 16:22 GMT
'Iraq al-Qaeda' welcomes US poll
Abu Hamza
Abu Hamza was identified in June as the late Zarqawi's successor
A statement purportedly from the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq hails the defeat of Republicans in the US mid-term polls.

The audio message, whose authenticity has not been verified, was published on Islamist websites and was said to be the voice of Abu Hamza al-Muhajir.

The Democrats' victory in Tuesday's Congressional elections was a move in the right direction, the speaker said.

Outgoing US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had stepped down to flee the Iraqi battlefield, he added.

He told US President George W Bush to "stay on the battleground".

"I tell the lame duck (US administration) do not rush to escape as did your defence minister.

"The American people have taken a step in the right path to come out of their predicament... they voted for a level of reason," the voice said. Muhajir, also known as Ayyub al-Masri, has been identified by US forces as the successor to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, killed in a raid in June 2006.

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