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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

At least they agree on something

The rest of the world mixes into everything that goes on here, so why not al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda's number two, Ayman al-Zawahri, said in a tape that was released today on al-Jazeera that new elections should not be held in the 'Palestinian Authority.' No, it's not because he loves Hamas either:

Al-Zawahri appeared to be trying to mobilize support against a range of Middle Eastern players _ Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, his Hamas opponents, Iran and its Shiite allies in Iraq and elsewhere.

He attacked Abbas' proposal to hold early elections to resolve the increasingly violent rivalry between his moderate Fatah party and the militant Hamas movement, which dominates the parliament. The situation has degenerated to daily gunbattles in the streets of Gaza.

In the clips broadcast by Al-Jazeera, al-Zawahri did not say how the two parties should settle their dispute, but he scoffed at elections, saying: "Any way other than holy war, will lead us only to loss and defeat."

He did not say whom the Palestinians should fight, but previously he has always recommended "holy war" against Israel and the West.

He described Abbas as "America's man in Palestine," and warned that if Palestinians accepted him as their president, it would be "the end of holy war."

In what appeared to be a reference to Abbas and his Fatah party, al-Zawahri said: "Those who are trying to liberate the Islamic territories through elections based on secular constitutions, or on decisions to hand over Palestine to the Jews, will not liberate one grain of sand of Palestine."

He also criticized the militant Hamas party _ although he did not name it _ which has condemned the proposal for early elections. He accused Hamas of making a number of concessions that would ultimately lead to "the recognition of Israel."

He said these concessions began with Hamas' signing "the truce" with Israel last year, then the group took part in the January elections "based on a secular constitution," and recognized Abbas as the head of the Palestinian authority.

Al-Zawahri rebuked Hamas particularly for not pushing for an Islamic constitution before it contested the elections.

"Aren't they an Islamic movement? Aren't they campaigning for the word of God to be supreme?" he said, adding the party should have insisted on the drafting of "an Islamic constitution for Palestine."

In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum brushed off al-Zawahri's criticism and defended the party's electoral policy.

"Our Palestinian institutions are in need of reform, and to fix them we need to participate in the parliament and other institutions," Barhoum said.

"We are not responding to al-Zawahri so much as we are affirming who we are as a movement," Barhoum added.

Al-Zawahri's comments were expected to have little influence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Hamas has distanced itself from al-Qaida, saying its struggle is against Israel, not the West at large.

"I don't think it would have any impact," said analyst Diaa Rashwan of the tape.

Rashwan, an expert on militant groups at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo, said Hamas is a strong critic of al-Qaida, although both groups call for Israel's destruction.

Well, at least they agree on something. /sarcasm


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