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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 April, 2004, 16:29 GMT 17:29 UK
Straw dismisses Bin Laden 'truce'
Osama Bin Laden
Bin Laden is widely believed to still be alive
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw says an apparent offer of a truce for Europe from Osama Bin Laden should be treated with the "contempt" it deserves.

A tape said to be of Bin Laden has been broadcast on Arab TV offering Europe a truce if it "stops attacking Muslims".

"This is a murderous organisation which seeks impossible objectives by the most violent of means," Mr Straw told reporters in London.

"It's yet another bare-faced attempt to divide the international community."

Business as usual

Mr Straw made the comments after a meeting with the Polish foreign minister, Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, who said of the "truce" offer: "It would be a big, big mistake if people buy that".

The Foreign Office says it is "impossible" to confirm whether the tape recording aired on Arab satellite TV stations was the fugitive terror chief behind the 11 September attacks on the US.

But the American CIA says it is "likely" the new tape is genuine.

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

Mr Straw said: "One has to treat such claims, proposals, by al-Qaeda with the contempt which they deserve."

He said the organisation has said in terms "that whilst we love life, they love death".

Al-Qaeda's attempts to divide the international community "cannot and will not succeed", he said.

"Everybody knows that there's only one side in which the international community can be on in the fight against terrorism."

Home Secretary David Blunkett said the apparent offer was "ludicrous", adding that British and coalition troops would not be deflected from their work.

Worried

Conservative deputy leader Michael Ancram said it showed al-Qaeda was worried.

"We have got to make absolutely sure that we stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the fight against Bin Laden, al-Qaeda and international terrorism," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

In the tape, aired by al-Arabiya and al-Jazeera satellite channels, the voice says the truce would not be extended to the US, Reuters reported.

The person on the tape also vowed to avenge Israel's killing of Hamas' spiritual leader Ahmed Sheikh Yassin.

The authenticity of the tape could not be immediately verified.

Attacks 'payment'

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

The truce would then begin when "the last soldier" leaves "our countries".

The tape also refers to the 11 March bombings in Madrid, Spain 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 September 11 and March 11 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," it added.

Rifts?

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

Analysts say the tape could be an attempt to exploit possible rifts between the US and its European allies in Iraq and compete with the rising prominence of radical Shia clerics such as Moqtada Sadr in the country.

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

And it condemns the recent US-led conflict in 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 by 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 the Arab satellite television channel al-Jazeera, condemned the occupation in Iraq and attacked Arab nations which supported the war.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (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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