(photo credit: AP)
The political leader of Hamas Khaled Mashaal on Monday rejected the European Union's warning to halt aid to the Palestinian Authority if the Hamas wins next month's parliamentary elections but fails to renounce violence.
Mashaal dismissed the EU's move as "a flagrant interference" in the Palestinians' internal affairs and urged the Palestinian Authority not to bow to EU pressure.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said Sunday that European taxpayers would have a hard time supporting the Palestinian Authority if it included a party that supports violence and advocates Israel's destruction.
"It would be very difficult for the help and the money that goes to the Palestinian Authority to continue to flow," Solana told reporters in Tel Aviv.
The EU's stand "harms its advocates and the European stand, more than it can harm Hamas," Mashaal told The Associated Press by telephone in Damascus. "It reflects the double-standard policy and playing with the values of democracy and freedom."
"So long as people have opted for democracy, they should respect its results and should not confiscate the right of the Palestinian people to choose (their leaders)," Mashaal said.
He added that the Palestinian people would not accept "such a flagrant intervention" in their internal affairs and would not bow to "such pressures."
The Palestinians receive about US$1 billion (â‚¬830 million) a year in international aid - about half the Palestinian Authority's budget - and EU assistance is slated to reach â‚¬260 million (US$312 million) in 2006.
The EU warning reflected growing international concern that Hamas could win the Jan. 25 parliamentary vote.
Hamas, labeled a terrorist organization by the United States and Israel, swept municipal elections in several West Bank cities last week.
Mashaal also reiterated that Hamas would not renew a truce with Israel when it expires at the end of the year. "The general climate in light of the continuing Zionist aggression and (Israel's) refusal to release Palestinian detainees does not encourage us to renew the truce," he said.