The Al-Jazeera satellite channel broadcast an audiotape purportedly from al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, in which he urged Muslims to continue fighting a holy war in Iraq and the Middle East rather than cooperate with peace efforts.
The speaker, who referred to recent events -- including the December capture of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, called on Muslims to "continue the jihad to check the conspiracies that are hatched against the Islamic nation." He said the US-led war against Iraq was the beginning of the "occupation" of Gulf states for their oil.
"My message is to incite you against the conspiracies, especially those uncovered by the occupation of the crusaders in Baghdad under the pretext of weapons of mass destruction, and also the situation in [Jerusalem] under the deceptions of the road map and the Geneva initiative,'' the speaker said.
A Mideast peace plan dubbed the Geneva Accord was launched on Dec. 1 by Israeli and Palestinian negotiators. The phrase "road map" refers to a US-backed plan for a Palestinian state by 2005.
The tape's authenticity could not immediately be verified, although the voice on the tape resembled that of bin Laden.
"The CIA and appropriate intelligence authorities are reviewing the tape to check for its authenticity," Allen Abney, a White House spokesman, said on Sunday.
Al-Jazeera played the audiotape while showing a still photo of bin Laden against a dark blue background.
Ibrahim Hilal, Al-Jazeera's editor-in-chief, said the network received the message on Sunday. However, he declined to reveal how it was delivered.
The original message was 47 minutes long but the network aired only 14, Hilal said.
In those excerpts, the speaker urged Muslims to "liberate the Islamic world from the military occupation of the Crusaders."
The speaker criticized leaders of Muslim nations for refusing to pressure the US on the Palestinian issue and for not supporting the Palestinian resistance.