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Page last updated at 17:11 GMT, Wednesday, 3 June 2009 18:11 UK

'Bin Laden' tape denounces Obama

Osama Bin Laden (centre) with Ayman al Zawahiri (left) in an image broadcast by al-Jazeera in October 2001
No video of Bin Laden was released

A tape recording purported to be of al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden has accused US President Barack Obama of fuelling hatred of America in Pakistan.

The audio message broadcast on Arabic TV channel al-Jazeera blamed US pressure for Pakistan's crackdown in its north-western Swat Valley.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians have fled the fighting with Taliban rebels.

The White House said Bin Laden wanted to divert attention from a long-awaited speech by Mr Obama to Muslims.

The tape was aired as the American leader arrived in Bin Laden's native Saudi Arabia for a brief visit at the start of a Middle East tour in which he is due to deliver the keynote speech in Cairo, on Thursday.

Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said on a visit to the Pakistani capital Islamabad that the Taliban and al-Qaeda were responsible for the crisis, and it would be "ludicrous" to suggest otherwise.

He also announced that Washington would seek an extra $200m in emergency aid to help the displaced people in the north-west. The US earlier pledged $110m.

'Not surprising'

In the recording, the speaker identified as Bin Laden said the new US president was following in the footsteps of his predecessor, George W Bush, in antagonising Muslims.

A Pakistani cannon stands in a field in the troubled Buner district near Swat, 31 May
Pakistan has been using heavy weapons to drive out the militants

"Obama and his administration have planted seeds for hatred and revenge against America," he said.

The leader of al-Qaeda, which is held responsible for the 9/11 attacks on America, reportedly added: "Let the American people prepare to continue to reap what has been planted by the heads of the White House in the coming years and decades."

This was a hint of further attacks by al-Qaeda, says the BBC's defence and security correspondent, Rob Watson

If confirmed, this would be the fugitive al-Qaeda leader's first audio message in three months.

Earlier, Bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al Zawahiri, urged Muslims to ignore the new, conciliatory tone from Washington because Mr Obama's "bloody messages" in Iraq and Afghanistan would not be concealed by "polished words".

Analysts suggest the al-Qaeda leadership is clearly rattled by the new, Obama administration and its desire to reach out to Muslims worldwide.

A senior Saudi spokesman described the latest tapes as an act of desperation from "men hiding in caves".

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, who is travelling with the US president, told reporters: "I don't think it's surprising that al-Qaeda would want to shift attention away from the president's historic and continued efforts to have an open dialogue with the Muslim world."



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