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US Says New Bin Laden Tape Authentic

U.S. officials say the Central Intelligence Agency is confident that the voice on a new audiotape attributed to Osama bin Laden is authentic.

Intelligence officials say the CIA has analyzed the message and believes with a high degree of confidence that the voice belongs to the al-Qaida leader.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino Thursday said the recording shows that bin Laden is again trying to establish himself as the defender of Muslims. But she said al-Qaida continues to target innocent people and bring death and destruction to those who do not agree with its views.

In an audio recording posted to an al-Qaida-affiliated Web site late Wednesday, bin Laden warned that the European Union will be severely punished for publishing satirical cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in European newspapers.

The cartoons first appeared in Danish newspapers in 2005.

In the recording, Bin Laden said the cartoons are part of a "new crusade" against Islam in which the Vatican has played a large and lengthy role.

The Vatican today rejected the accusations, and said Pope Benedict XVI has criticized the cartoons. A Vatican spokesman said charges that the pope supported the publication of the satirical cartoons are totally unfounded.

The cartoons sparked mass riots in Muslim nations worldwide. Last month Danish newspapers republished one of the cartoons - in which Prophet Muhammad is wearing a bomb as a turban - to show their commitment to freedom of speech, after police said they uncovered a plot to kill the artist.

The message, entitled "The response will be what you see, not what you hear," is bin Laden's first public statement since late last year.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.