ROME – A three-month offer of a terrorism truce purportedly made by Osama bin Laden expired Thursday with little notice in the European countries invited to accept it.
After the taped message was broadcast on Islamic satellite networks April 15, CIA officials said technical analysis of the recording indicated it probably was authentic.
“I announce a truce with the European countries that do not attack Muslim countries,” said the audiotape by a man identifying himself as bin Laden.
“The door to a truce is open for three months,” but the time frame could be extended. “The truce will begin when the last soldier leaves our countries,” the speaker said without elaborating.
The truce was an apparent effort to drive a wedge between Europe and America, and was quickly spurned by Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain.
As the deadline passed in European capitals, where security forces already were on increased alert, there was no apparent change in the resolve to battle terrorism.
In Poland, which holds a key military command role in U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq, Foreign Ministry spokesman Boguslaw Majewski said anti-terror measures were being “implemented on a constant basis.”
In Italy, which has the third-largest military contingent among postwar forces in Iraq, there was no mention of the passing deadline on state TV. The main evening news’ report focused on terrorism alarms in the United States and their possible effect on the election chances of President Bush.
Earlier in Rome, Italy and Russia issued a joint statement reasserting “condemnation without ambiguity of all forms and acts of terrorism, regardless of motives, places and circumstances.”
The statement, issued after talks in the Italian capital between the countries’ foreign ministers, did not mention the deadline. At the time the taped offer surfaced, Italy called the idea of negotiations “unthinkable.”
The British government, as it did when the tape emerged, ruled out any deal with al-Qaida.
“The notion of an armistice with a group that defines itself by violence is a nonsense,” a British government official said on condition of anonymity. “We continue to regard al-Qaida as much of a threat today as we did last week.”
When the bin Laden offer was first reported, “the response that you got from all across Europe was really quite robust. From Berlin to Paris, from Rome to Madrid to London, everybody was saying the same thing, that the notion that could strike any kind of a deal” was nonsense, the official said, adding that Britain believed the passage of the deadline had no significance.
In Germany, a government spokesman also dismissed the truce offer and deadline, saying: “Chancellor (Gerhard Schroeder) has already said that every attempt to divide Europe will collapse.”
There was the same resolve in Eastern Europe.
“We don’t intend to budge to terrorists,” said a spokesman for the Slovak Foreign Ministry, Juraj Tomaga.
When asked about the deadline, Romania’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Bogdan Manoiu, said there was no discussion about removing troops or shifting away from security duties in Iraq. Romania has 730 troops in Iraq and 500 in Afghanistan.
Anti-terrorism measures have been in place in much of Europe since the Sept. 11 attacks.