The White House says the latest audiotape attributed to Osama bin Laden appears to be authentic.

Word of the new audiotape reached White House officials while President Bush was traveling in California.

The first comment came several hours later when spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters that U.S. intelligence agencies have studied the tape and believe it is the voice of the al-Qaida leader.

In the tape, a man purported to be bin Laden accuses the west of waging war against Islam. He makes specific mention of recent developments in Sudan and the Palestinian territories, including restrictions on Western help for the Hamas-led government.

A key member of the U.S. Congress says the tape is part of a multi-media effort by al-Qaida to woo moderate Muslims. Peter Hoekstra, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, made the comment on the Fox News Sunday television program. "It (al-Qaida) recognizes that much of this war, this battle that we are fighting, is about winning the hearts and the minds of moderate Islam. And they are focused on that. We need to be focused on it," he said.

The Michigan Republican was joined on the program by the top Democrat on his committee, Jane Harman of California. She focused on the Bush administration's failure to find the al-Qaida leader. "Well, the tape reminds us that four years after 9-11, Osama bin Laden is still at large, the subject of the largest man hunt in history. We haven't been able to find him and part of the reason is we have been bogged down in Iraq," he said.

The tape is the first from bin Laden since a January recording in which he threatened more attacks against the United States. He also offered a truce on that tape, which the Bush administration rejected, saying it does not negotiate with terrorists.