Osama bin Laden appeared for the first time in three years in a videotape Friday released ahead of the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, telling Americans they should convert to Islam if they want the war in Iraq to end.
ABC News obtained a transcript of the videotape, which it said was 30 minutes long and appeared to have been recently made, since bin Laden refers to the Democratic congressional victory and to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who was elected in May.
In a short excerpt broadcast by Al-Jazeera television, bin Laden sits as he talks, wearing a white robe and turban and beige cloak. His trimmed beard is shorter than in his last video, in 2004, and is fully black -- apparently dyed, since in past videos it was mostly gray.
Bin Laden makes no overt threats and does not directly call for attacks, according to the transcript posted on ABC's Web site.
Instead, he addresses Americans, lecturing them on the failures of their leaders to stop the war in Iraq despite growing public opposition in the U.S.
"There are two solutions to stopping it. One is from our side, and it is to escalate the fighting and killing against you. This is our duty, and our brothers are carrying it out," bin Laden said.
"The second solution is from your side," he said. "I invite you to embrace Islam."
"It will also achieve your desire to stop the war as a consequence, because as soon as the warmongering owners of the major corporations realize that you have lost confidence in your democratic system and have begun to look for an alternative, and this alternative is Islam, they will run after you to please you and achieve what you want to steer you away from Islam," he said.
The al-Qaida leader had not appeared in new video footage since October 2004, and he had not put out an audiotape for more than a year, his longest period without a message.
The transcript also mentions the political activist and author Noam Chomsky, global warming, and refers to the Aug. 6 anniversary of the World War 2 bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
In Washington, an official said the U.S. government recently obtained a copy of the video and several intelligence agencies were studying it. The official agreed to discuss the matter only if not quoted by name.
The Homeland Security Department said Friday it had no credible information warning of an imminent threat to the United States, and analysts noted that al-Qaida tends to mark the Sept. 11 anniversary with a slew of messages.
White House deputy press secretary Tony Fratto declined to comment on the video until it had been fully analyzed, except to say it was a reminder of the continuing terrorist threat.
"This is why we need to be more vigilant and more persistent in our pursuit of terrorists," Fratto said. "We will continue to pursue them. And it reminds us that we need to be certain that our intelligence professionals have all the tools they need to continue to disrupt their activities."
The government was looking at bin Laden's physical characteristics -- in part, for clues about his health after unconfirmed rumors earlier this year that he had died of kidney disease.
Soon after word emerged that the United States had the video, Islamic militant Web sites that usually carry statements from al-Qaida went down and were inaccessible. The reason for the shutdown was not immediately known.
Evan H. Kohlmann, a terrorism expert at globalterroralert.com, said he suspected it was the work of al-Qaida itself, trying to find how the video leaked to U.S. officials.
"For them this is totally disruptive that the U.S. government could have a copy before their targeted audience does," he said. "They could be concerned and trying to plug the leak quickly."
Bin Laden's beard appears to have been dyed, a popular practice among Arab leaders, said Rita Katz, director of the SITE Institute, a Washington-based group that monitors terror messages.
Katz said al-Qaida has consistently marked the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attack as one of its biggest successes.
In 2003, a videotape of bin Laden was released the day before the anniversary, and last year al-Qaida released a documentary describing the planning of the attacks.
Videotapes of bin Laden are the group's most powerful propaganda tools, and they use them sparingly, Katz said.
Over the last few years, al-Qaida leaders appear to have gotten better at distributing their missives. They are using subtitles and different languages and using the Internet to distribute them, rather than depending on a particular television station or network.
By Lee Keath, Associated Press Writer
Associated Press writers Lara Jakes Jordan, Pamela Hess and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)