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Europe Outraged by Alleged Bin Laden Tape

DW staff (dsl)April 15, 2004

EU leaders on Thursday dismissed the offer of a "truce" from terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, who said his terror network al Qaeda might spare Europe from attacks.

A new tape thought to be from Osama bin Laden surfaced this week.Image: AP

The European Union and national governments across Europe responded with outrage to an alleged audio tape from terrorist Osama bin Laden broadcast on Thursday by the Arab news networks al Arabiya and al-Jazeera. In the taped message, bin Laden offers to call a truce with Europe if it removes troops from the Middle East.

"I announce a truce with the European countries that do not attack Muslim countries," the purported bin Laden says in the tape. In a reference to the recent terrorist attacks in Madrid and earlier ones in New York and Washington, the speaker said: "What happened on Sept. 11 and March 11 was your goods delivered back to you."

Political leaders throughout Europe agreed that the best response to bin Laden's truce offer would be to ignore it while continuing to ferret out and stop terrorists all over the world.

Britain, which said it could not confirm the veracity of the tape, said it nonetheless took the message seriously. London, however, didn't appear moved by bin Laden's message. "We can't negotiation with al Qaeda," a statement released by the Foreign Office said. "Their attacks are against the very idea of coexistence. The right response is to continue to confront terrorism, not give in to its demands." The British government accused bin Laden of pursuing a "cynical strategy" of trying to divide Europe and the United States.

In Rome, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said "it's unthinkable that we may open negotiations with bin Laden, everybody understands this."

A spokesman for the German government, meanwhile, said "there can be no discussions with terrorists and criminals like Osama bin Laden." Though Germany strictly opposed the war in Iraq, it has several thousand peacekeeping troops in Afghanistan and is currently training civilian police officers in Iraq.

And Spain's designated foreign minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos, said bin Laden's message, in which the man speaking justified the March 11 attacks, should be ignored completely. "Those of us who seek peace, democracy and freedom do not need to listen or pay attention to him," he said. Around 200 people died in Madrid after bombs detonated on local commuter trains.

On a trip to China, European Commission President Romano Prodi scoffed at the apparent bin Laden message. "How could you possibly react to this statement? There is no possibility for a deal under a terrorist threat. It is completely impossible," he told reporters.

CIA to review tape

Officials at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency said Thursday they would review the tape to determine its authenticity.

In the message, which runs just over seven minutes long, the purported bin Laden said "the truce will begin when the last soldier leaves our countries." The man also states that recent polls have shown that the majority of Europeans want to reconcile with the Islamic world and calls on European governments to respond to the offer within three months.

The alleged bin Laden also pledges retaliation for the recent murder of Hamas leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin by the Israeli army. "We vow before God to take revenge for him from America for this, God willing," the man said. The Israeli armed forces assassinated the founder of the radical Palestinian group during a targeted mission on March 22.

The tape also sharply criticizes Washington's Middle East policy, saying it ignores the "real problem," the "occupation of all of Palestine." It further lambastes the U.S. for creating a business out of the war in Iraq that is generating "billions" for American companies through weapons and reconstruction contracts.