Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden claimed Barack Obama 'had planted the seeds of revenge and hatred in the Muslim world' in a new recording released as the US president landed in Saudi Arabia this afternoon.
Bin Laden said Obama was continuing in the steps of his predecessor George W. Bush and told Americans to be prepared for the consequences of the White House's policies, in the recording aired by Al Jazeera TV.
The president is in Saudi Arabia for talks with King Abdullah on the eve of a much-anticipated speech in Cairo the U.S. leader hopes will help repair America's damaged image in the Islamic world.
After an airport welcome in Riyadh, Mr Obama travelled to King Abdullah's farm where the two men were to hold talks expected to cover the Arab-Isareli conflict, US overtures to Iran and oil.
He was due to spend the night at the Saudi king's farm before heading on to Cairo for his speech to the Muslim world, which will fulfill a campaign promise last year to deliver an address from a Muslim capital early in his administration.
'I am confident that we're in a moment where in Islamic countries, I think there's a recognition that the path of extremism is not actually going to deliver a better life for people,' Obama told NBC News before he left Washington.
'I think there's a recognition that simply being anti-American is not going to solve their problems. The steps we're taking now to leave Iraq takes that issue and diffuses it a little bit,' he said.
Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said earlier the speech was 'about resetting our relations with the Muslim world'.
Obama cautioned against expecting too much from the speech, which he said was just the first step in opening a broader dialogue with the Muslim world.
'After all, one speech is not going to transform very real policy differences and some very difficult issues surrounding the Middle East and the relationship between Islam and the west,' Obama said.
He spoke as analysts noted a shift in the presentation of the president's Islamic heritage.
Political bloggers noted that during the presidential campaign, Obama's team went to great lengths to paint him as an American and emphasise his Christian roots - distancing him from his Muslim father.
Bloggers at ABC News cited a comment the then-senator made on: May 22, 2008 as typical: 'My father was basically agnostic, as far as I can tell, and I didn't know him.'
In September 2008, candidate Obama told a Pennsylvania crowd, 'I know that the temptation is to say, 'You know what? The guy hasn't been there that long in Washington. You know, he's got a funny name. You know, we're not sure about him.'
'And that's what the Republicans when they say this isn't about issues, it's about personalities, what they're really saying is, 'We're going to try to scare people about Barack. So we're going to say that, you know, maybe he's got Muslim connections.'...Just making stuff up.'
Since taking office, however, analysts said Obama is flipping the coin - playing up his Islamic roots in an effort to reach out to the Muslim world.
Speaking to the Turkish parliament in April, he said: 'Americans have Muslims in their families or have lived in a Muslim majority country. I know, because I am one of them.'
In an interview with France's Canal Plus on June 1 he painted America as one of the largest Muslim countries in the world, saying: 'I think that the United States and the West generally, we have to educate ourselves more effectively on Islam.
'And one of the points I want to make is, is that if you actually took the number of Muslim Americans, we'd be one of the largest Muslim countries in the world. And so there's got to be a better dialogue and a better understanding between the two peoples.'
The president has also begun introducing himself by his full name - Barack Hussein Obama - despite dropping the 'Hussein' during the election campaign.
Whether the Muslim world will buy the turnaround - or whether Obama will face any domestic backlash for it - remains to be seen. Tomorrow's speech in Cairo may prove the test.
But Al Qaeda will not allow Obama to attempt to charm the Muslim world without a fight.
Bin Laden's intervention came after his number two slammed Mr Obama's Cairo speech, saying it will not change the 'bloody messages' the US military is sending to Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ayam al Zawahri posted the new audio message yesterday on Islamic websites.
'His bloody messages were received and are still being received by Muslims, and they will not be concealed by public relations campaigns or by farcical visits or elegant words,' al Zawahri said.
Al Qaeda has repeatedly lashed out at Mr Obama since he was elected, a move some analysts believe indicates the terrorist organisation is worried he will actually succeed in improving the U.S. image in the Muslim world.
Al Zawahri said the Egyptian officials who will welcome Mr Obama are U.S. 'slaves' and have turned the country into an 'international station of torture in America's war on Islam.'
He was likely referring to suspected Islamic militants who have been captured by the U.S. and sent to Egypt for interrogation in the dark process known as rendition.
Al Zawahri urged Egyptians to reject Mr Obama when he makes his speech, calling him 'that criminal who came seeking, with deception, to obtain what he failed to achieve in the field after the mujahideen ruined the project of the crusader America in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia.'
He said Mr Obama's decision to come to Cairo showed the U.S. had not given up its alliances with dictatorial and corrupt Mideast governments.
'It is a clear message that America does not stand with reform and change and other lying American propaganda, but it stands with the continuation of the existing tyrannical, rotten regimes,' said al Zawahri.
The authenticity of the almost 12-minute audio message titled 'The Torturers of Egypt and the Agents of America Welcome Obama' could not be confirmed.
But it was posted on militant Web sites that have been used by al Qaeda in the past and carried the logo of As Sahab, the terrorist organization's media wing.
Al Zawahri criticized Mr Obama's trip to Israel before he was elected president and his visit to the Western Wall - Judaism's holiest site, also known as the Wailing Wall - where he wore a yarmulke.
'The White House said that Mr Obama will send a message from Egypt to the Islamic world, but they forgot that his messages have already been received by the Islamic world when he visited the Wailing Wall, put on his head the Jew's cap and prayed their prayers, though he claims to be Christian,' al Zawahri added.
The audio message was accompanied by a picture of al Zawahri wearing a white robe and white turban. It also included videos of Mr Obama visiting the Western Wall in Jerusalem and speaking at AIPAC, a pro-Israel lobbying organization in the United States.
By Mail Foreign Service
Last updated at 2:37 PM on 03rd June 2009
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In: Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, News
Tags: al zawahri, barack obama, muslum, world, osama bin laden, saudi arabia, usa, america, king abdullah, cairo, egypt, islamic, israel, revenge, hatred,
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