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Statement in name of bin Laden calls on Pakistanis to `make Islam victorious'

Updated:

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ A statement attributed to Osama bin Laden criticizes the government of Muslim Pakistan for standing ``under the banner of the cross'' and calls on Pakistanis to ``make Islam victorious.''

Excerpts from the signed statement were broadcast Thursday on the Qatari-based Al-Jazeera satellite channel, which held the document up to the camera and said it was received by fax in Doha, Qatar. An employee of the station read the full text to The Associated Press in Cairo over the phone.

There was no way to independently verify the authenticity of the statement. Ali al-Kaabi, al-Jazeera's news gathering coordinator, told AP that ``we have no doubts'' about the statement. He said al-Jazeera recognized bin Laden's signature and that the content was in line with previous pronouncements from him.

Addressing ``civilian and military Pakistanis,'' the statement in the name of bin Laden appears to call for the overthrow of Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, whose government supports the U.S. campaign against the ruling Taliban militia in Afghanistan.

The bin Laden statement depicts the war as a battle between religions _ something President Bush has said it is not.

``The world has been divided into two camps: one under the banner of the cross, as the head of infidels, Bush, has said, and one under the banner of Islam,'' the bin Laden statement says.

``The Pakistani government has stood under the banner of the cross,'' the statement continues. ``Adherents to Islam, this is your day to make Islam victorious.''

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer dismissed the statement Thursday.

``I think it's just more of the same propaganda that people have been hearing, and I dismiss it as such,'' Fleischer said in Washington.

Bin Laden, a Saudi exile, is the No. 1 suspect in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. The Taliban have refused to hand him over to the United States.

Bin Laden's organization, al-Qaida, has previously released three video statements. Bin Laden appeared in the first, which was released Oct. 7 but seemed to have been made before then.

The last communication came Oct. 13, a week after the U.S. bombing began, when al-Qaida spokesman Sulaiman Abu Ghaith said on a video that Americans and Britons should leave Afghanistan.

The statement broadcast Thursday said believers should not rest before ``they bring victory to truth and its people, and defeat falsehood and its people, with God's permission. Your stance against evil gives us heart.''

``The heat of the crusade against Islam has intensified, its ardor has increased and the killing has multiplied against the followers of (Islam's Prophet) Muhammad ... in Afghanistan,'' the statement said.
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