Bin Laden turns fury on Arab and Muslim leaders
By Inal Ersan
Sunday November 4, 11:53 AM
DUBAI (Reuters) - Osama bin Laden turned his wrath on Arab and other Islamic leaders, saying in a new videotaped statement broadcast on Saturday that any Muslim backing the United States' "crusade" in Afghanistan had betrayed the faith.
Defiant and clad in military fatigues with an AK-47 assault rifle on his left, Washington's most wanted man appealed to the world's 1.2 billion Muslims to join him in a religious war against the "infidel" Christians and Jews.
It was language that U.S. President George W. Bush, anxious for support from moderate Muslims, has been at pains to counter.
"Rise in support of your religion. Islam is calling you," bin Laden said. "Your support for us makes us stronger."
The Saudi-born militant appeared in footage broadcast by the Arabic satellite television channel al-Jazeera, his second televised statement since the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington. The channel did not say when it was recorded.
He appeared pale and became emotional near the end of the statement.
Bin Laden lashed out at Arab and Muslim leaders, accusing them of preventing Muslims from uniting as the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan was about to enter its fifth week.
"The leaders of the region are shunning and shying away from supporting their brothers," he said. "What is worse is that they are preventing Muslims from supporting their brothers."
"It is a certain fact that Bush carried the cross high," bin Laden said, referring to the Christian symbol carried by mediaeval European crusaders in religious wars against Muslims.
"Whoever stands behind Bush has committed an act that stands as an annulment of their Islam."
"This war is primarily a religious war," he added.
Bush, himself a practising Christian, has been at pains to maintain support among moderate Muslims by assuring them the United States is not attacking their religion.
Bin Laden made several references to the Koran, the Muslim holy book, and repeatedly argued that all Muslims were targets of the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan.
"The issue is a matter of beliefs and not as portrayed by Bush, a war against terrorism," bin Laden said.
"These vibrant masses from the far east to the far west are not moving for Osama, they are moving for their religion because they know they are right and resisting the strongest, most vicious and most dangerous crusade against Islam," he said.
Bin Laden, target of a U.S.-led campaign to flush him out of hiding among the ruling Taliban in Afghanistan, also lambasted U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan as a "criminal".
He criticised him in connection with East Timor, currently under transitional administration by the U.N. after 24 years of occupation by Indonesia.
"Look at the position of the Europeans and the United Nations towards events in Indonesia, when they moved to divide the biggest Muslim country in terms of population," he said.
"This criminal Kofi Annan speaks publicly and puts pressure on the government of Indonesia, saying it had 24 hours to let go of East Timor. We should not look at this event as separate. It is part of a long chain of plots. It is a war of annihilation," he added.
He described the United Nations in other excerpts from the same broadcast as a tool of crime against Muslims and said Arab leaders who cooperated with the world body were infidels.
"The United Nations is a tool of crime. We (Muslims) are being slaughtered every day and it does not move."
U.N. special representative Lakhdar Brahimi met Pakistani and Afghan leaders this week and was visiting Iran on Saturday to discuss how a new government might replace the Taliban.
The governments of Muslim states bordering Afghanistan plan to hold further meetings with U.S, Chinese and Russian officials later this month for further talks on the question.
"Those who claim to be Arab leaders and are still with the United Nations are infidels," said bin Laden.
"Today without any evidence the United Nations is peddling resolutions in support of America...against the weak who have just emerged from a massive war by the Soviet Union.
"The people of Afghanistan have nothing to do with this matter," he said of the September 11 attacks, without saying who was to blame. "But the campaign continues annihilating villagers, women and children without a right."
Annan indicated early last month that U.N. rules gave Washington the right to proceed with a military strike against those responsible for the attacks on U.S. cities that killed nearly 5,000 people.
Bin Laden blamed the U.N. for the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, by approving a resolution that "surrendered the land of Islam to the Jews".
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