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Zawahiri Denounces Prophet Cartoons

Al Qaeda's deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri criticized the West for its insult to Islam's prophet, in a video broadcast Saturday on Al-Jazeera Arab satellite network.

Referring to the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that have been printed in a number of European newspapers, al-Zawahiri said, "They did it on purpose and they continue to do it without apologizing, even though no one dares to harm Jews or to challenge Jewish claims about the Holocaust nor even to insult homosexuals."

On the new tape, al-Zawahiri also said the west must be prevented from "stealing Muslims' oil."

Al-Zawahiri, wearing a black turban and seated in front of a curtained window, spoke insistently and waved his right hand to emphasize his words.

"The insults against Prophet Muhammad are not the result of freedom of opinion but because what is sacred has changed in this culture," he said. "The Prophet Mohammed, prayers be upon him, and Jesus Christ, peace be upon him, are not sacred anymore, while Semites and the Holocaust and homosexuality have become sacred."

Al-Zawahiri also offered his support to the militant Islamic Hamas group that is forming a new Palestinian government after sweeping legislative elections and seemed to agree with its refusal to bow to pressure to agree to peace talks with Israel and renounce its violent ideology.

He complained that the previous Palestinian leaderships had "sold Palestine" through previous peace agreements.

"There were declarations about respecting the signed agreements between the Palestinian Authority and Israel," he said. "That means accepting Oslo and Madrid and the road map agreements and the other surrendering agreements. This is a dangerous deal which should be dropped immediately."

"No one has the right, whether a Palestinian or not, to abandon a grain of soil from Palestine which was a Muslim land that was occupied by infidels. It is the duty of every Muslim to work on getting it back," he said.

Speaking of Palestine and Iraq, al-Zawahiri said: "We have to be aware of the American game called 'political process.'"

"Bush, the caller for democracy threatened Hamas in his State of the Union speech to cut assistance unless it recognizes Israel, abandons Jihad and abides by the agreements of surrender between the (Palestinian) Authority and Israel."

"I would like to tell my brothers in Palestine that reaching power is needed to implement Islamic rule," he said.

An Al-Jazeera official would not say how the network received the latest videotape.

Al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's deputy, has issued several video and audiotapes in the past year. His last video came on Jan. 31, in which he threatened a new attack against the United States.

Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri are believed to be in hiding along the rugged Pakistan-Afghan border.

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