Bin Laden

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An audio recording attributed to Osama bin Laden offered rewards in gold Thursday for the killing of top U.S. and U.N. officials in Iraq or of the citizens of any nation fighting there.

The 20-minute recording, dated Thursday, appeared on two Web sites known for militant Islamic messages. The voice sounded like that of Bin Laden and the words were laden with Quranic verse, but the authenticity of the recording could not immediately be verified.

Bin Laden had never been known to offer rewards for missions he had described as followers' religious duty to carry out.

"You know that America promised big rewards for those who kill mujahedeen (holy warriors)," the speaker said. "We in al-Qaeda organization will guarantee, God willing, 10,000 grams of gold to whoever kills the occupier Bremer, or the American chief commander or his deputy in Iraq."

He was referring to L. Paul Bremer, the chief U.S.

administrator in Iraq, and top military officials.

"For security reasons, the rewards will be given as soon as conditions permit, God willing," the voice said. "As for those who die while killing an occupying solider, the great prize will be for us and for him when God grants him martyrdom, and the smaller prize (the gold) will be for his family."

The United States has offered rewards of its own for information leading to the captures or deaths of bin Laden and his top lieutenants, as well as for top figures in the former Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein. The price on bin Laden's head now stands at $50 million -- far more than the nearly $125,000 that 10,000 grams of gold is worth.

The recording promised the same reward for the deaths of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his envoy to Iraq, Lakhdar Brahimi.

"The United Nations is...