Al-Qa'ida chief in jihad plea to Hamas

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The man considered to be al-Qa'ida's number two has criticised Hamas for entering the political process.

In a video messagebroadcast by the Arabic language channel Al Jazeera, Ayman al-Zawahiri said that voting would lead to the Palestinians' land being taken by Israel. "Any road other than jihad will only lead to loss," he said. "Those trying to liberate the land of Islam through elections based on secular constitutions or on decisions to surrender Palestine to the Jews will not liberate a grain of sand of Palestine."

His message referred to several recent developments, including the stalled talks on forming a national unity government between the ruling Islamist movement, Hamas, and the Fatah faction of the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas.

Hamas took part in elections for the first time in January, taking control from Fatah, though its government has been boycotted by the West and Israel. "Accepting the legitimacy of Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the national authority, America's man in Palestine, and mandating the PLO which recognises Israel to negotiate with Israel is an abyss which will ultimately lead to eliminating the jihad and recognising Israel," said Osama bin Laden's deputy.