As Obama Begins Tour of Islamic Countries, bin Laden Makes New Threat

Bin Laden reportedly accuses Obama of continuing in the steps of former President George W. Bush.


BY Michael Saul

Terrorist mastermind Osama Bin Laden reportedly issued a threatening statement against the U.S. Wednesday, shortly after President Obama arrived in Saudi Arabia on a trip aimed at improving relations between the United States and the Muslim world.

Al Jazeera, the Arabic television network, broadcast a statement reportedly from bin Laden in which he accuses Obama of continuing in the steps of former President George W. Bush.

Bin Laden said Obama and his administration "have planted seeds for hatred and revenge against America," according to a Reuters translation of the audio statement.

The tape was broadcast shortly after Obama arrived.

On Wednesday afternoon local time, Obama landed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and participated in an arrival ceremony at the airport. Each country's national anthem was played, the Saudi national guard was on hand and there was a 21-gun salute.

According to reports, the President and the king exchanged a quick embrace and kiss. Obama did not bow before the king as he appeared to do in London earlier this year, a gesture that sparked criticism.

Obama and Abdullah then sat together in gilded chairs, sipped cardamom-flavored Arabic coffee from small cups and chatted briefly before retreating from public view.

Later, the President attended a welcome reception with King Abdullah at the king's farm.

In brief remarks, Obama said he was struck by the king's "wisdom and his graciousness."

"The United States and Saudi Arabia have a long history of friendship, we have a strategic relationship," Obama said. "I thought it was very important to come to the place where Islam began and to seek His Majesty's counsel and to discuss with him many of the issues that we confront here in the Middle East.

Obama will fulfill a campaign promise when he travels to Cairo on Thursday to speak in a major Muslim capital. The President hopes to repair relations between the United States and the followers of Islam in the wake of intense anger from the policies of his predecessor.

Obama's father was a Muslim and, as a child, the president lived briefly in Indonesia.

"I think that we want to do is open a dialogue," Obama said in an interview with the BBC prior to his departure. "This [is] an opportunity for us to get both sides to listen to each other a little bit more, and hopefully learn something about different cultures."

"You know, there are misapprehensions about the West, on the part of the Muslim world. And, obviously, there are some big misapprehensions about the Muslim world when it comes to those of us in the West," Obama said.

The White House tamped down expectations about the trip.

"We don't expect that everything will change after one speech," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday. "I think it will take a sustained effort and that's what the president is in for."