The State Department says the tape attributed to Osama bin Laden aired Tuesday by the al-Jazeera Arabic television network confirms the link between the al-Qaida terror organization and Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
The United States acquired its own copy of the purported bin Laden tape through undisclosed sources and Secretary of State Colin Powell was the first to reveal its existence Tuesday at a congressional hearing.
Mr. Powell told the Senate Budget Committee the terrorist leader reveals a "partnership" between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein's Iraq, and said it makes Iraq's retention of banned weapons of mass destruction all the more dangerous.
"He [bin Laden] speaks to the people of Iraq and talks about their struggle, and how he is in partnership with Iraq," Mr. Powell said. "This nexus between terrorists and states that are developing weapons of mass destruction can no longer be looked away from and ignored. As the President has said, 9-11 changed things. And so we have a regime led by Saddam Hussein, who has not accounted for all the weapons of mass destruction they've had in the past, who continues to pursue them. And we have non-state terrorist actors such as al-Qaida, led by Osama bin Laden, that would do anything to get their hands on this kind of material."
Shortly after the tape was played by the Arab network, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher was interviewed on al-Jazeera, and said it shows that al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein "seem to have common cause together."
He said the voice of the tape threatens the United States and everyone in the Arab world, except Saddam Hussein.
He also said it puts to rest the idea that the nominally-socialist and secular Iraqi regime and the militantly-Islamic al-Qaida are too philosophically divergent to ever link up.
Mr. Boucher reiterated charges raised last week at the U.N. by Mr. Powell that Iraqi intelligence has had links with al-Qaida for many years, and has given operatives linked to Mr. bin Laden safe-haven.
He said the United States has carefully examined the connections between the two and that the links reported by Mr. Powell are "solid fact." He said those channels "could come back to haunt us" if a weapon of mass destruction or related technology were passed along through them.
Officials said privately they believe the audio recording was of Mr. bin Laden, and said his accounting of a heavy bombardment in October 2001 reinforces their belief that he only narrowly survived attacks by U.S. led forces in Afghanistan.