Image: Ayman al-Zawahri
APTN via AP File
Al-Qaida's deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahri in a videotape issued Saturday, Sept. 2, 2006.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 2/28/2011 6:11:22 AM ET 2011-02-28T11:11:22

Osama bin Laden's deputy has urged Tunisians and Egyptians to continue their uprisings and revolt against the interim governments set up after the ouster of their autocratic presidents.

Ayman al-Zawahri claims the United States watched the developments in Tunisia for a long time, only deciding to support President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's removal after realizing his regime no longer served Washington's interests.

Do Egypt protests make al-Qaida 'irrelevant'?

"However, the reins of the affairs remain with America's men, its agents and their soldiers," al-Zawahri said, according to the AFP news service.

The message is al-Zawahri's third audio recording released since the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. Al-Qaida's top leadership were slow to enter the fray, which some analysts earlier told NBC News hurt the group's attempt to stay relevant.

The Egyptian-born al-Zawahri also says the U.S. made intentionally vague statements on Egypt because the Obama administration wants to see if Hosni Mubarak would be able to suppress the popular uprising against his rule.

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Al-Zawahiri called Mohamed ElBaradei, the U.N.'s former nuclear watchdog and Nobel Peace Prize winner, a "secular alternative," the AFP report said.

"I don't know where will be the headquarters of this transitional government — in Cairo or in Vienna or in New York?" al-Zawahiri asked, according to AFP.

The al-Qaida deputy said ElBaradei is a choice that would be endorsed by the international community, "fulfilling its interests and giving the poor and weak some freedoms and some liberty," the report said.

But al-Zawahiri claimed Egypt would also remain "a primary partner in America's war on Islam under the name of war on terror" and protector of the border with Israel.

The 15-minute recording was posted on a militant website late Sunday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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