WASHINGTON - Elusive Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden mocked the United States as "weak" and vowed to escalate fighting in Iraq in a new video, his first such appearance in nearly three years.
Bin Laden discusses current events but issues no direct threats in the video, released Friday. His appearance appears to be timed to mark the upcoming sixth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.
There are two ways to end the Iraq war, bin Laden says, according to a transcript released by the US-based SITE Intelligence Group which monitors Islamic militant websites.
"The first is from our side, and it is to continue to escalate the killing and fighting against you," he says.
The second is to do away with the US democratic system of government, which he says merely serves the interests of major corporations.
In the rambling message bin Laden attacks US President George W. Bush, the US neoconservative thinkers that support him and global corporations for fomenting the Iraq war. He also attacks the US Democratic Party, which he claims has done little to halt the war, makes references to global capitalism and climate change, and invites Americans to embrace Islam.
US intelligence agencies confirmed the tape's authenticity. "I think people are pretty confident it is his voice," said a US intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The tape was probably produced as recently as early August because of a reference to the 62nd anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, the official said.
It is bin Laden's first such appearance since October 2004, when he threatened new attacks against the United States in a video just days before the US presidential election.
CIA Director Michael Hayden on Friday warned that Al-Qaeda was planning new, large-scale attacks on US targets.
"Our analysts assess with high confidence that Al-Qaeda's central leadership is planning high impact plots against the American homeland," he said in a New York speech.
In the video bin Laden appears with a trimmed beard that is apparently dyed black, hiding the streaks of gray seen in previous footage. He wears a beige cloak over a white robe.
According to Azzam Tamimi, head of the London-based Institute of Islamic Political Thought, the beard dye is a "sign of war."
The Salafi Islamic school to which bin Laden belongs "condones this dye only in preparation for war," he said.
Bin Laden mocks the United States for its troubles in Iraq and the effect of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
"Despite America being the greatest economic power and possessing the most powerful and up-to-date military arsenal as well ... 19 young men were able -- by the grace of God, the most high -- to change the direction of its compass," he said in a reference to the September 11 hijackers.
"America is weak despite its apparent strength," he says.
Widely believed hiding in the remote tribal areas along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, bin Laden has evaded capture despite a huge US manhunt and a 25-million dollar bounty on his head.
According to the video transcript, bin Laden begins with "praise to God" and his "law of retaliation" -- "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth and the killer is killed."
Bush is "like the one who plows and sows the sea: He harvests nothing but failure," bin Laden said.
In the tape bin Laden also mentions French President Nicolas Sarkozy, elected in May, and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who took office in June.
Addressing the American people directly, he refers to domestic opposition to the Iraq war, saying: "the world is following your news in regards to your invasion of Iraq, for people have recently come to know that, after several years of tragedies of this war, the vast majority of you want it stopped."
He says the Democrats who now control the US Congress have failed to stop the war, and even "continue to agree to the spending of tens of billions to continue the killing and war there."
Bin Laden also refers to recent US headline stories, referring to "the burden of interest-related debts, insane taxes and real estate mortgages; global warming and its woes."
Bush: Bin Laden video shows needs for Iraq resolve
US President George W. Bush on Saturday said a new video from terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden showed how dangerous the world remains and how the United States must show resolve in Iraq.
"The tape is a reminder about the dangerous world in which we live," Bush said after the release of a transcript of the video, in which the Al-Qaeda chief suggests escalating the war in Iraq.
"I find it interesting that Iraq was mentioned, which is a reminder that Iraq is a part of this war against extremists," and that the United States must show resolve in battling them, said Bush.
Democrats berate Bush over bin Laden
Democrats lashed out at President George W. Bush over the failure to catch Osama bin Laden.
Bush's rivals in Congress accused him of diverting attention from the battle against Al-Qaeda by invading Iraq, and of leaving the United States more vulnerable to terrorism than before the September 11 attacks in 2001.
"He is out there and he is breathing easy, in a safe haven, and helping direct global terrorist attacks," Senator Robert Menendez told reporters.
"Not only is Osama bin Laden at large and back in business, but the Department of Homeland Security continues to receive failing grades."
Fellow Democratic senator Bob Casey said the Iraq war was a digression from the hunt for bin Laden.
"Having to police a civil war is drawing resources from that effort," he said, referring to the Iraq war.
The Bush administration argues that the battle against Al-Qaeda militants in Iraq makes the conflict the pivotal battle in the 'war on terror.'
But Democrats argue that Al-Qaeda had no presence in Iraq until the US invasion in 2003.