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By Inal Ersan
DUBAI, April 2 (Reuters) - Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was well and reports speculating about his sickness were false, his deputy Ayman al-Zawahri said in a recording on Wednesday.
"Sheikh Osama bin Laden is in good health," Zawahri, who is also a doctor, said in response to questions compiled by Islamist Web sites. "The ill-intentioned always try to circulate false reports about him being sick."
Zawahri, who, like Saudi-born bin Laden is believed to be hiding in Afghanistan or Pakistan, also denounced the United Nations and vowed to attack Jews both within and outside Israel.
"The United Nations is an enemy of Islam and Muslims," he said. "It has legalised the creation of the state of Israel and its seizure of Muslims’ land ... it has legalised the crusader presence in Afghanistan ... and Iraq," he said in a 104-minute audio recording posted on the Internet.
He defended attacks on U.N. offices in an apparent reference to twin bomb attacks on U.N. buildings in Algiers which killed 41 people in December and the 2003 bombing of a U.N. building in Baghdad which killed 22.
Zawahri also called for attacks on Jews. "We promise our Muslim brothers that we will do our utmost to strike Jews in Israel and abroad with help and guidance from God."
Al Qaeda will turn to fight Israel after "winning" the war in Iraq against U.S.-led and government forces, he said, adding that the United states had begun to collapse.
"The myth of unipolar world is over. The (Sept. 11, 2001) strikes on New York and Washington are identifying marks of this collapse, but empires do not collapse in a minute and could take decades. The collapse of the Soviet Union is the closest example."
The Egyptian militant also reiterated al Qaeda calls to Muslims to topple Western-allied governments and to attack Western and Israeli interests in Muslim countries.
"We call the nation in Egypt and other parts to hit crusader and Jewish interests wherever they are to force the invaders to leave Muslim land, and to stop supporting corrupt regimes."
"Severity of repression might delay change but it cannot stop it... what matters is to prepare for change, being patient, willingness to make sacrifice and seizing opportunities."
Zawahri also urged Muslims to join fighters in "open jihad fields such as Somalia, Iraq, Algeria and Afghanistan" or to support them with money and information.
"Be careful about... the major sin of not rising for jihad."
He defended al Qaeda’s violent attacks in Iraq and North Africa in which civilians were killed. "We do not kill the innocent. We fight those who kill the innocent — the Americans, the Jews, the Russians, the French and their agents."
Many of the questions, compiled since December, were sharply critical of al Qaeda and its practices, while others sought advice for joining jihad. Zawahri said he will answer more of the questions in a second statement and noted that the delay in response was partly due to security reasons.
Answering a question about the reason behind his criticism of Islamist Palestinian group Hamas, the Egyptian militant said that its killing of Israeli children "is not permitted" in rocket attacks on Israeli towns.
Zawahri has often criticised the leaders of Hamas, associated with rivals in the Muslim Brotherhood bloc, for abandoning suicide bombing for political gains after it won a parliamentary election last year.
Turning to another favourite target, the Saudi government, Zawahri said its "link to the international crusade is doomed ... The jihadist movement in the (Arabian) Peninsula will return God willing".
Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, has been for years been battling militants seeking to destabilise its U.S.-allied government through attacks on Western and energy targets. (Reporting by Inal Ersan; Editing by Dominic Evans)