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Zawahiri assails Palestinian voting

December 21, 2006|From the Associated Press

CAIRO — Osama bin Laden's second-in-command criticized both sides of the Palestinian power struggle in a videotape aired Wednesday, calling the Palestinian president "America's man" but also lashing out at the Islamic group Hamas.

Egyptian-born Ayman Zawahiri scoffed at the plan to hold early elections in the Palestinian territories, saying that voting would lead only to defeat and that the right policy was armed struggle.

The footage was broadcast by Al Jazeera, the Qatari-based satellite channel.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has called for early elections to end the increasingly violent rivalry between his relatively moderate Fatah party and the militant Hamas movement, which dominates the parliament.

In an apparent reference to Abbas and Fatah, Zawahiri 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 Hamas -- although he did not name it -- accusing the group of making concessions that would ultimately lead to "the recognition of Israel." He cited Hamas' participation in the elections.

Zawahiri's comments were unlikely to have much impact. Hamas has said its struggle is against Israel, not the West.

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