Pacific Rim Bureau (CNSNews.com) - Australia's resolve to defeat terrorists has been bolstered by its inclusion in a warning message said to be from one of Osama bin Laden's key lieutenants, the country's foreign minister said Thursday.
A taped message broadcast on the Arabic al-Jazeera television network, purportedly featuring the voice of Ayman Al-Zawahiri, urged Muslims to attack the United States, Britain, Australia and Norway. It also threatened Jews.
"Do not allow the Americans, British, Australians, Norwegians and other crusaders, the killers of your brethren in Iraq, to live in your countries and benefit from their resources," the speaker said, inviting Muslims to learn a lesson from the Sept. 11 hijackers.
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, who is visiting the Saudi capital, Riyadh, told Australia's Channel Nine broadcaster that the inclusion of Australia in the threat - assuming the message was genuine - "just reinforces our determination to stand up to terrorist organizations."
"We're one of quite a few countries that have been determined to take a stand against terrorism and against, in particular, al Qaeda, and ...we'll just continue to do that," he said.
Downer expressed the view that although al Qaeda was likely responsible for the recent deadly bombings in Riyadh and Casablanca, Morocco, it was "nothing like as effective" as it was 18 months ago.
Australia contributed military forces to the U.S. and British campaign to oust Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. (Norwegian officials voiced surprise Wednesday about the threat against their country, which did not support the war against Iraq.)
When Canberra deployed forces to the Gulf, Prime Minister John Howard was attacked by political opponents, some of whom warned that Australian participation would make it a more prominent target for Islamist militants.
Opposition Labor Party leader Simon Crean, who spearheaded political opposition to Australian involvement in Iraq, said Thursday the alleged al Qaeda threat demonstrated that his country's participation in the war "has not made us a safer place."
Back in Saudi Arabia, Downer said Australia had decided not to close its embassy in Riyadh, despite a heightening of tensions in recent days, but it is warning citizens to avoid traveling to Saudi Arabia.
The U.S., which has raised its terror alert to the second-highest "orange" level, closed its mission in the Saudi capital, as has Britain and Germany.
Several countries also have travel warnings in place for parts of Southeast Asia and East Africa.
Washington Wednesday was highly critical of the Qatar-based al-Jazeera's decision to air the tape.
"We have expressed our outrage over this broadcast to the government of Qatar at the highest levels, through our mission in Doha," the State Department said in a brief statement.
"We expect the Qataris will take immediate steps to prevent any repeat of this activity," it said.
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