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Voice Said to Be Bin Laden's Urges Muslims to Fight Despots'

                      By DAVID STOUT

WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 — A man believed to be Osama bin Laden urged Muslims today to help Iraq repel any United States attack through suicide missions and other tactics, declaring an American-led war against Saddam Hussein's regime would be an assault on all Muslims.

"Fight these despots," an audiotaped voice said over Al Jazeera, an Arabic television channel based in Qatar. "I remind you that victory comes only from God." The message, which Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said reinforced suspicions about a close partnership between Iraq and terrorists, said in part: "We are following with great concern the preparations of the crusaders to launch war on the former capital of Muslims and to install a puppet   government."

In that context, "crusaders" seemed to be a scathing reference to the militant Christians of the Middle Ages who waged war against peoples the church regarded as heretics.

"All those who cooperate with the Americans against Iraq are hostile to Islam," said the voice, broadast over a file photograph of Mr. bin Laden. The voice, speaking in Arabic, said the United States was  seeking, through the occupation of Iraq, "to achieve the Zionist dream of establishing a Greater Israel."

"We stress the importance of martyrdom attacks against the   enemy," the message said, adding that any Arab ruler who helped the Americans would be "an apostate whose blood should be  spilled."

In Washington, Mr. Powell, who knew of the audiotape hours before it was broadcast, said it showed that "this nexus between terroristsand states that are developing weapons of mass destruction can no longer be looked away from and ignored."

Mr. Powell testified before the Senate Budget Committee and told  members he had learned this morning of the new message, which he believed to be genuine. Mr. bin Laden is suspected of masterminding the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and had not been heardfrom since November. Al Jazeera has broadcast messages from the terrorist before.

Mr. Powell's remarks, along with simultaneous statements from the heads of the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, conveyed a message that terrorists remain a serious threat to the United States, both at home and abroad, despiteprogress in the campaign against terror since the attacks of Sept11, 2001.

"We see disturbing signs that Al Qaeda has established a presence in both Iran and Iraq," C.I.A. Director George Tenet told the Senate Intelligence Committee. "In addition we are concerned that Al Qaeda continues to find refuge in the hinterlands of Afghanistan and Pakistan." Mr. Tenet indicated that he too knew of the new message in advance.

The United States has not accused Iran, Iraq or North Korea — the three members of the "axis of evil," as President Bush has described them — as having any part in the Sept. 11 attacks. But the Bush administration has said repeatedly that Iraq in particular is sympathetic to terrorists and gives them refuge.

Mr. Tenet said there had been heartening gains in the campaign against terrorism, including "unprecedented international cooperation," much of it from Muslim governments that realize the threat posed to them by Al Qaeda.

"That said," Mr. Tenet went on, "the continuing threat remains clear. Al Qaeda is still dedicated to striking the U.S. homeland, and much of the information we've received in the past year revolves around that goal."

F.B.I. Director Robert S. Mueller III told the panel that the F.B.I. was committed to becoming "a world-class intelligence agency" as it steers itself toward new missions in a new kind of war.

"Since Sept. 11, 2001, the men and women of the F.B.I. have  recognized the need for change and have embraced it," Mr. Mueller said.

That remark seemed to be tacit recognition of the heavy criticism the F.B.I. encountered for not doing enough to "connect the dots," or decipher the clues that might have thwarted the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The C.I.A. also was severely criticized for its performance before Sept. 11, 2001. Senator Richard F. Shelby of Alabama, one of the agency's most prominent critics, was chairman of the Intelligence Committee until the new Senate convened last month. Mr. Shelbywas replaced by another Republican, Pat Roberts of Kansas, so Mr. Tenet may have had an easier time on Capitol Hill today than he would have had a few months ago.

The statements of Mr. Powell, Mr. Tenet and Mr. Mueller came at a  particularly tense time, only days after the Bush administration, citing fresh intelligence reports, put the country on a higher alert against terrorist attacks.

The officials' testimony came as a United States-led war to disarm Iraq seems likely. Mr. Powell told lawmakers that a paramount reason to disarm the Hussein regime is the fellowship it feels with terrorists.

"We see these non-state actors, terrorist organizations — Al Qaeda, bin Laden, others, terrorists that are trying to develop weapons of mass destruction, seek weapons of mass destruction," the secretary said.

As for Mr. Hussein, he said, "If this regime was allowed to continue to develop weapons of mass destruction, it is just a matter of time before coincident interests between the Iraqi regime and organizations such as Al Qaeda will raise the likelihood that these kinds of weapons could fall into their hands."

Mr. Hussein has denied any connections to Al Qaeda.The secretary was warmly received by the committee, whose  chairman is Senator Don Nickles, Republican of Oklahoma. For months, Mr. Powell was regarded as one of the more dovish
members of the administration on the subject of war with Iraq.

"I have been an advocate of containment," Mr. Powell said. "I worked very hard the first year and a half of this administration to put in place smart sanctions, another form of containment. Yet we found that even with all of these containment efforts of the past 12 years, they have not served to stop Saddam Hussein and his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, or to encourage him to get rid of the weapons of mass destruction that we know he has."

Asked whether an invasion of Iraq might create more Al Qaeda terrorists, Mr. Powell replied indirectly, with a reference to the Al Qaeda network that already exists. "I would not like to see Al Qaeda going into the subways of New York or some other crowded facilityin our nation," he said.

Mr. Powell's testimony was part of a State Department message in support of its proposed budget for next year. Mr. Tenet and Mr. Mueller testified in an annual evaluation of terrorist threats.

Kleine Preisfrage: Wie oft kommt in diesm Text "Weapons of mass destruction" vor?

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