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Europe: No deal with bin Laden
Updated: 2004-04-16 09:15

European politicians have ruled out negotiating with Osama bin Laden after a tape the CIA says is likely to be that of the al Qaeda leader offered a truce to European nations if they pull troops out of Islamic countries.

Osama bin Laden speaks to journalists in this 1998 photo taken in Khost, Afghanistan. In a recording broadcast on Arab satellite networks Thursday April 15, 2004, a man who identified himself as Osama bin Laden offered a ``truce'' to European countries that do not attack Muslims, saying it would begin when their soldiers leave Islamic nations. [AP/file]
"It is completely unthinkable that we could start negotiations with bin Laden. Everyone understands that," Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told reporters.

European Commission President Romano Prodi said there could be no negotiating under a "terrorist threat." 

Leaders in France and Germany also rejected any such offer.

"One has to treat such claims by al Qaeda with contempt, which they deserve," Britain's Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said. "This is a murderous organization which seeks impossible objectives by the most violent means."

In Spain, where al Qaeda terrorists killed 190 people in train bombings last month, the prime-minister elect did not mention the tape in an address to parliament, but vowed to fight terrorism.

"There is no sense to terrorism. There is no policy in terrorism. There is just terror, death, blackmail," said incoming Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

In Washington, Secretary of State Colin Powell called the European reaction "very direct and clear."

"You can't make a deal with somebody like bin Laden," Powell said. "How can you make a deal with a terrorist?"

Arab language TV network Al-Arabiya aired Wednesday what it said was an audio tape from bin Laden, in which he threatened revenge on America, but offers a truce to European states.

The CIA -- after evaluating the tape -- said Thursday that although it's impossible to be absolutely sure the voice on the tape is bin Laden's, it most likely is.

CNN experts who have listened to the tape say the speaker sounds like bin Laden but there is no way for CNN to independently confirm the speaker's identity.

Dubai-based Al-Arabiya declined to say how it received the tape, but the speaker referred to events that occurred less than a month ago.

In the audio tape, the speaker threatens revenge on the United States for the death of Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who was killed March 22 in an Israeli targeted helicopter attack in Gaza City.

He also refers to the September 11, 2001 attack on the United States and the March 11, 2004, Madrid train bombings as examples of actions al Qaeda has taken in response to attacks on Muslims.

He offers a "truce" or "non-aggression" to any European country that stops "attacking Muslims," but excludes the United States from any such deal.

The speaker gives a three-month deadline, starting April 15, for countries to stop attacking Muslims. He mentions Iraq but not in the specific context of the U.S.-led war.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the tape is "a clear reminder we are still at war."

"This is a clear reminder terrorists will use any excuse to carry out evil attacks on innocent human beings," said McClellan, speaking aboard Air Force One as it carried President Bush to an appearance in Iowa.

The last tape believed to have been recorded by bin Laden aired in January on Qatar-based Arabic language network, Al Jazeera.

The CIA said the speaker on that tape was "likely" bin Laden, who describes the U.S. involvement in Iraq as the beginning of an occupation of Persian Gulf states for their oil.

"Whoever made the tape," a CIA official said noting the Yassin death reference, it "clearly has been made in the last three weeks."

On March 25, Al Jazeera aired a tape believed to be from bin Laden's top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, calling on Pakistanis to overthrow President Pervez Musharraf.

CNN senior international editor David Clinch and Caroline Faraj, editor of CNN.com in Arabic, contributed to this report

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