Dubai, Jan. 19 (Reuters): Osama bin Laden warned that al Qaida was preparing new attacks inside the US, but said the group was open to a conditional truce with Americans, according to an audio tape attributed to him today.
Al Jazeera television, which aired the tape, said it was recorded in the Muslim month that corresponded to December.
“The operations are under preparation and you will see them in your houses as soon as they are complete, God willing,” said the speaker on the audio tape, who sounded like bin Laden.
Reacting to the tape, the White House said the US “does not negotiate with terrorists”.
In the tape, bin Laden said al Qaida was willing to respond to US public opinion supporting an American troop pullout from Iraq. He did not specify conditions for the truce, but indicated it was linked to US troops quitting Iraq.
“We have no objection to responding to this with a long- term truce based on fair conditions.” Bin Laden issued an audio tape in April 2004 in which he also offered a truce ' on that occasion to Europe, but not to the US.
Analysts saw the move at the time as an attempt to drive a wedge between the US and its allies and to scare wavering coalition members out of Iraq.
In the brief segments aired, bin Laden ridiculed President George W. Bush for misreading public opinion which he said showed the American people wanted US forces to quit Iraq.
He also said Iraq had become a recruiting ground for militants. Al Qaida in Iraq, led by close bin Laden ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, is one of several insurgent groups fighting US and foreign forces in Iraq. American and Iraqi officials say many of their members are non-Iraqis.
“Your President is misinterpreting public opinion polls which show that the vast majority of you support the withdrawal of your forces from Iraq,” bin Laden said.
“He (Bush) disagreed with this desire and said the withdrawal of troops will give the wrong message to the enemy and that it is better to fight them on their ground than on our ground.”
“Reality shows that the war against the US and its allies is not just restricted to Iraq as he claims, but Iraq has become a gravitational point and a recruiting ground for qualified (mujahideen),” he added.