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Zawahri invited to Cairo meet, via Net

Cairo, Sept. 2 (Reuters): The right-hand man of suspected September 11 mastermind Osama bin Laden has been invited to take part in a Cairo conference this weekend on the future of Islamic movements — by telephone or the Internet.

Islamist lawyer Montasser al-Zayat said he issued an invitation this week on Islamic websites to top bin Laden aide Ayman al-Zawahri to join in yesterday’s seminar in a Cairo hotel. The US says bin Laden’s al Qaida was behind last year’s attacks on New York and Washington which killed around 3,000 people.

Zawahri, an Egyptian former surgeon, made an anti-US pact with bin Laden in Afghanistan in 1998. Their whereabouts remain unknown after a US military campaign destroyed al Qaida’s operations in Afghanistan. Zawahri’s family has said he lost his wife and three children in the US campaign. Reports have said the two men are together and planning new attacks on the US.

“He should take part by any means. We said he could send a message by the Net — the telephone could be difficult,” said Zayat, a former acquaintance of Zawahri.

Zawahri is the founder of the Jihad group which, alongside the militant group al-Gamaa al-Islamiya, fought a 1992-7 campaign to topple the government of President Hosni Mubarak. Zayat was considered an unofficial Gamaa spokesman from 1990-94.

“We told him (Zawahri) he should speak. He should write his reasons, his view on September 11 and the way out of the crisis the Islamist movement is now in,” said Zayat, who condemns violence and says militants should make peace with the state.

“Do we stay with the same methods, do we only shout and curse the US' Is that the only thing that will realise our objectives'” Zayat said, adding he had little doubt al Qaida was behind the September 11 attacks.

“We don’t want just to criticise. We want an objective evaluation of the way out. I hope there will be a response (from Zawahri),” he said.

Zayat said the seminar would be attended by writers and politicians covering the whole gamut of Islamic politics, including Zawahri’s uncle Mahfouz Azzam, an Islamist lawyer.

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