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CNN AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN

Senior State Department Official: It's Bin Laden

Aired November 13, 2002 - 09:04   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: A senior State Department official now says the voice on the audiotape released yesterday is that of Osama Bin Laden. Our Mike Boettcher has analyzed the tape. He joins us now from Atlanta. Good morning, Mike.
MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Paula. We've had more confirmation in the past hour from other sources inside the anti-terror coalition, highly placed sources, who say that this is indeed Osama Bin Laden's voice and that they believe that this tape has not been edited, is not somehow electronically generated, that it is him and that it is proof that he is alive.

They are closely now looking at the words in the text of Osama Bin Laden's message that was meant to be directed at members of the anti-terror coalition -- basically a threat. He said, "Just as you kill us, we will kill you." He also had harsh word for members of the Bush administration. Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OSAMA BIN LADEN (through translator): Rumsfeld, the butcher of Vietnam killed more than 2 million people, not to mention the wounded. And here is Cheney and Powell, killing and destroying many in Baghdad. More than the Hulagu of the Tatars. So why are your governments allying themselves with America in attacking us in Afghanistan, especially to mention Britain, France, Italy, Canada, Germany and Australia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOETTCHER: He also referred to President George Bush as a modern-day pharaoh, which is heavily weighted in the Koranic text, a lesson that tells of the failure of arrogance and how the pharaohs fell because they thought they were equals to God. So this was a message being sent to the administration in many different ways and to U.S. allies around the world, Paula.

ZAHN: Now that you mention it, why don't we play that short portion of the tape that mentions, makes that reference, to Bush the pharaoh. Let's listen in.

(SPEAKING IN ARABIC)

ZAHN: I was interested in not only in the pharaoh reference but the reference to the American planes in Palestine. What is that supposed to mean? BOETTCHER: Well, what it means is -- and this is something that is repeated over and over again. For example on Al Manar Television out of Beirut, that is Hezbollah television, whenever they talk about an attack conducted by Israel against Palestinians in the West Bank or Gaza, they always say a U.S.-supplied helicopter. They don't say an Israeli helicopter. They say a U.S.-manufactured fighter jet given to Israel.

So this -- that is the reference. They take the connection between those weapons that the U.S. sells to Israel, or gives to Israel and they make that as a direct connection that the U.S. is part of those attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank or Gaza strip.

ZAHN: I know that you have spent time analyzing this tape and you've made the observation that unlike some of the tapes in the past that read and sounded more like sermons than just about anything else, that this audio tape had some very direct threats. And let's share the small part of that tape that refers to this direct threat.

Mike, we don't have it, but basically he poses a question. Why is it acceptable for us to live with fear, murder, destruction, displacement, the orphaning of children and widowing of women, but peace, security and happiness should be for you? He goes on to say, "This is not fair. Now is the time to become equals. Just like you kill us, we will kill you."

That translation comes from the person looking at this tape yesterday.

BOETTCHER: Well, you know, taken as a whole, Paula, he is basically saying there, "If you attack us, we will attack you. If you bomb us, we will bomb you." Tit-for-tat. And taken as a whole, some analysts are reading this as a threat against people joining the United States, and the United States itself, in an attack against Iraq.

He mentions in there the death of children in Iraq, a direct reference to what Iraq alleges are the deaths of many children due to sanctions. So it is a tit-for-tat. He's saying this war will continue on and, of course, this is proof that he is alive, and that he is able to carry on operations. To what extent, a lot of analysts say we're going to find out pretty soon.

ZAHN: So Mike, in this war on terror, how much of a setback is this for the Bush administration to have confirmation that he is still alive?

BOETTCHER: I don't think it changes anything. I think there was some division within the administration, but I believe -- on whether Bin Laden was dead or alive. But I believe most people believed he was. The search continues. There have been a lot of movements of troops around the world in various sections looking for Bin Laden. And I don't think it will change anything because they believed -- a lot of people believed that he was alive and this is proof of it.

ZAHN: Mike Boettcher, thanks so much. Appreciate it. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com



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