Vatican denies bin Laden "crusade" claim
(dpa) - The Vatican on Thursday denied claims made by al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden that Pope Benedict XVI was part of an international "crusade" against Islam.
"They are nothing new and they don't surprise us," Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi was quoted as saying by the ANSA news agency.
Lombardi was referring to comments made by bin Laden in an internet video released to commemorate the birth of the prophet Mohammed, and coinciding with the fifth anniversary of the US-led war in Iraq.
In the message the al-Qaeda leader threatened Europe over the publication of cartoons depicting the Muslim prophet Mohammed, calling the drawings part of "a new crusade, in which the Pope of the Vatican has played a large, lengthy role."
"The specific allegation is completely unfounded," Lombardi said.
"The Pope and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue have on more than one occasion condemned the satirical campaign against Islam," he added.
The cartoons were first published in 2006, sparking protests and rioting in numerous Muslim nations. They were republished last month, in what the Danish newspapers called a bid to defend freedom of speech after a plot to murder the cartoon's artist was uncovered.