Al-Jazeera television has aired what it says is an audiotape from Osama bin Laden's top aide urging Muslims to attack Western targets in Muslim lands.
The Qatar-based satellite channel says the speaker on the tape is Ayman al-Zawahri, the number two man in the al-Qaida terrorist network.
The speaker calls on Muslims to attack the embassies and commercial interests of the United States, Britain, Australia and Norway. He urges Muslims to follow the example of hijackers who carried out the September 11th (2001) attacks on the United States -- which the United States blames on al-Qaida.
Hours after the tape was broadcast, the United States announced it was closing its embassy in Norway to the public on Thursday for security reasons.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell criticized al-Jazeerah for playing the tape. He says broadcasting the excerpts heightens tensions throughout the region and allows terrorists access to the airwaves.
There has been no confirmation the voice on the tape is actually Ayman al-Zawahri. Al-Jazeera did not disclose how or when it obtained the audiotape.
Meanwhile, Saudi Interior Minister Nayef Bin-Abd-al-Aziz has denied reports that three suspected al-Qaida members arrested this week were planning to hijack an airliner and use it in a September 11th style suicide attack. The three men -- all Moroccans -- were arrested at a Jeddah airport Monday.