The political leader of the Hamas said Sunday that calls by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for his group to disarm were "rude" interference in internal Palestinian affairs.
In a telephone interview with The Associated Press, Khaled Mashaal also accused the United States of conspiring with Israel against the interests and rights of the Palestinian people.
Rice said last week that Hamas cannot participate in Palestinian politics if it remains armed. "You cannot simultaneously keep an option on politics and an option on violence," she said in a speech at Princeton University.
Rice stopped short of calling for a ban on Hamas' participation in parliamentary elections to be held in January. "We do, I think need to give the Palestinians some space to try and reconcile their national politics, but they're going to eventually have to disarm these groups," she said.
Mashaal said her comments showed "complete bias to Israel in its campaign to limit Hamas' role in Palestinian political life."
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon opposes Hamas' participation in Palestinian legislative elections on grounds it violates the internationally backed "road map" peace plan, which calls on the Palestinians to dismantle militant groups.
"Such (US) statements confirm America's rude position and insistence on interfering in Palestinian internal affairs," Mashaal told AP.
He said Palestinian policies were not subject to US or Israeli dictation. "No one has the right to make the group choose between resistance and political life."
Mashaal said American and Israeli attempts to prevent Hamas from taking part in the elections contradicted with their claims of promoting democracy. "Israel fights democracy in daylight with a US green light," he said.
Mashaal, however, said Hamas is committed to the truce with Israel and had "no plans for escalation" despite the latest Israeli assassination and arrest campaigns against members of the group in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
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