Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden
Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden urged European countries to end their military cooperation with US forces in Afghanistan, in an audio tape aired by Al Jazeera television on Thursday.
He said American power was waning and it would be wise for the Europeans to quickly end their role in Afghanistan, where many European countries contribute to the 50,000-strong NATO and US-led coalition forces.
"With the grace of God ... the American tide is receding and they would eventually return to their home across the Atlantic ... It is in your interest to force the hand of your politicians (away from) the White House," said bin Laden.
In Washington, a US counterterrorism official said the voice on the audio tape appeared to be bin Laden's. It was not immediately clear when the new message was recorded.
The United States led the invasion of Afghanistan to depose its Taliban rulers in late 2001, after they refused to hand over bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders following the September 11 attacks on the United States.
Bin Laden did not make any threat in the portions of the recording aired by Jazeera. The full tape is yet to be released by an Islamist Web site.
In the portions aired by Jazeera, bin Laden said the Taliban had no knowledge of plans for the 2001 attacks.
"I am the one responsible... The Afghan people and government knew nothing whatsoever about these events," he said, adding that the United States had not provided any evidence of Taliban involvement to justify its invasion.
"Europe marched behind it with no choice but to be a lackey," bin Laden said.
"I'm addressing you (Europeans) and not your politicians ... (who) like to be in the shadow of the White House as many world leaders," he said, naming current and former leaders of Britain, France, Spain and Italy, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
The United States has been urging its NATO allies to send more troops to Afghanistan, but European nations remain reluctant to commit further reinforcements.