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Bin Laden Tape: Timing Over Substance

German authorities say a cell there sought to launch an imminent attack on Frankfurt International Airport and America's Ramstein Air Base, among other targets. In Denmark, officials arrested eight people, all of whom were allegedly in contact with what Danish anti-terror officials called "leading al-Qaida persons."

Still, bin Laden made no overt threats of new attacks in the video released Friday. In fact, he seemed more concerned with lecturing on the evils of capitalism and the dangers of global warming, and even making reference to the sub-prime mortgage crisis roiling the United States.

In the video, bin Laden tells the American people his fighters are duty bound to "escalate the fighting and killing against you" in Iraq. But he adds that there is a solution to the bloodshed, saying: "I invite you to embrace Islam."

Caprioli said bin Laden took pains in the video to present himself as a statesman, attempting to put himself on the same level as world leaders.

"He wants to change his role, to be a leader who speaks to other leaders, and to cast himself as a champion of the oppressed."

"At other times, he has been a lot more threatening," Caprioli added. "Here we don't have a direct threat, because he's talking on a strategic level. He says, 'we will continue operations,' he doesn't say, 'We're going to blow up your planes, your pipelines, your boats."

Whether the video will resonate on the Arab or Muslim street is not at all clear. In Iraq, where disillusionment with the United States runs high, most people voiced disgust with bin Laden's latest message.

"This man (Osama) has nothing to do with religion," Saad Ubo Mustafa, a local resident in Baghdad, told AP television news. "He is killing Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, Christians, Jews and foreign people. Islam has got nothing to do with such kinds of people."

Added another man, Abu Basheer: "This man lives in prehistoric times. No one should pay attention or listen to him."

But even if the tape produces outrage or revulsion in most people, history shows that some will listen to what bin Laden has to say, and a few may even be moved to join him.

Bob Ayers, a terrorism expert at London's Chatham House think tank, said that while bin Laden professes to be speaking to the American people, his message is not really aimed at them.

"The people who are going to follow are the ones who are already converts and radicalized," he said. The other audience is almost certainly Western leaders _ particularly Bush _ who have so far failed to find him.

Ayers said bin Laden is thumbing his nose at U.S. leaders by "saying I've killed thousands of your people ... and you're ineffective."

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Associated Press reporters Angela Doland in Paris, and Romina Spina in London contributed to this report.


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