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Bush Reacts to New Bin Laden Video

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Bush Reacts to New Bin Laden Video


Bush Reacts to New Bin Laden Video

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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

President Bush has wrapped up his participation in the Asia Pacific Economic summit held in Sydney, Australia, this year. Today, Mr. Bush used a photo opportunity with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to react publicly to that new videotape of Osama bin Laden.

The tape of the al-Qaida leader, who has eluded capture in the six years since the 9/11 attacks, is still being scrutinized by intelligence analysts. For his part, President Bush sees it as further evidence of the threats the United States faces.

NPR's Don Gonyea reports from Sydney.

DON GONYEA: The bin Laden video was released just days before the anniversary of 9/11. It also comes as the White House is preparing for intense debate in Congress over the direction of the U.S. military campaign in Iraq.

On the tape, bin Laden's beard appears darker and shorter than it has in past videos, making him look younger. He speaks for about 30 minutes. He boasts about 9/11. He makes no specific threats.

(Soundbite of videotape recording)

Mr. OSAMA BIN LADEN (Leader, al-Qaida): (Arabic Spoken)

GONYEA: Bin Laden talks about the war in Iraq. He also describes the U.S. as vulnerable. When such tapes had surfaced in the past, the White House says often had little to say. But today, the president raised the subject without being asked.

He and Japan's prime minister had just concluded a morning meeting here in Sydney. After praising Japan for its role in fighting terrorism, the president added this.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: The fact that we're in a war against extremists was heightened today by the release of a tape and the tape is a reminder about the dangerous world in which we live.

GONYEA: The reappearance of bin Laden can cut several ways for the Bush White House. It does serve as a reminder that the al-Qaida leader is still at large despite intensive efforts by the U.S. to track him down. It also shows that even in hiding, bin Laden has the ability to get a message out to the world.

But the White House also sees the tape as reinforcing the argument that the war in Iraq is a key part of the fight against terrorists.

Pres. BUSH: I find it interesting that on the tape Iraq was mentioned, which is a reminder that Iraq is a part of this war against extremists. If al-Qaida bothers to mention Iraq, it's because they want to achieve their objectives in Iraq, which is to drive us out and to develop it as safe haven.

GONYEA: The president has now departed the summit meeting in Sydney. After a stop in Hawaii, he gets back to Washington early Sunday. The coming week could prove to be crucial for the future of his Iraq policy. General David Petraeus and ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker testify before Congress, providing an assessment of the so-called U.S. troop surge.

President Bush, after marking the anniversary of 9/11 on Tuesday, will also address the nation some time this week about what comes next in the Iraq mission, which the president says can succeed.

Don Gonyea, NPR News in Sydney.

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