"Hamas does not threaten America and does not threaten any country in the world. We have one enemy. It is the Zionist enemy that occupies our lands and kills our people," said Hamas leader in Gaza Abd Al-Aziz al-Rantisi in an exclusive interview with Aljazeera.net

The United States on Tuesday warned of a heightened threat of attacks against Americans in the Middle East and North Africa.

"In the aftermath of the killing of Hamas leader Shaikh Ahmad Yasin, a Hamas spokesman has threatened revenge against Israel and US interests," the US State Department said in a statement.

But the claim has been strongly rejected.

"We have one field for work which is inside the boundaries of Palestine," said al-Rantisi.

"We will not attack any American target and this is something I can assure you of."

Hamas has never carried out an attack on foreign soil.

Sharon is target

Playing down any threat to the US, the resistance movement did say it had the right to target Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to avenge Israel's killing of its leader.

Exiled Hamas leader Khalid Mishaal was quoted as telling pan-Arab al-Hayat daily in Damascus that Hamas now had the right to "hunt down the big Zionist heads" including Sharon.

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an armed faction of the Fatah movement, echoed the pledge.

"Wherever you find a Zionist kill him without hesitation," a masked al-Aqsa leader, identifying himself as Abu Qusai, told journalists - repeating an order issued to the group's members.

Sharon's office declined to comment.

Usama Hamdan: Hamas
representative in Lebanon

But security around Israeli leaders has been beefed up to levels not seen since just after the killing of Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi in a Jerusalem hotel in 2001 by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Provocative statement

For al-Rantisi, the false American statements of a coming Hamas attack are "provocative".

"This shows the idiocy of the American mentality that does not understand how Hamas thinks or plans," he said.

Al-Rantisi was elected on Tuesday as the supreme leader of Hamas in Gaza, replacing the slain Shaikh Yasin.

"There is no member of the Hamas leadership that made such a statement. Our policy can not be changed overnight like this, only through a shura (democratic council) decision.

"This did not happen and will not happen in the future – I assure you."

Yasin, the spiritual leader of Hamas, was killed in an attack on Monday by Israeli fire as he was leaving a mosque after dawn prayers and heading home.

US lie

Usama Hamdan, the Hamas representative in Lebanon, also rubbished the allegations. "This is a clear American lie to cover up the US involvement as it gave the green light for the assassination of Shaikh Yasin," Hamdan told Aljazeera.net.

"This shows  the idiocy  of the American mentality that doesn't understand how Hamas think and how they plan"

Abd Al-Aziz Al-Rantisi
Hamas leader in Gaza

"The Americans are trying to create an illusion that they are under threat and are targeted in order to create an official Arab reaction against the public outcry that took place in the streets of the Arab world."

Earlier, President George Bush told reporters the Hamas threats were being taken seriously. "I'm worried about terrorist groups targeting America," Bush said when asked about the threat posed by Hamas.

"Whether it be a Hamas threat, or an al-Qaida threat, we take them very seriously in this administration."

"The American lies are becoming evident for everybody and they are no longer a secret," pointed out Hamdan.

Emirates arrest

Meanwhile, Emirati police said they were questioning a suspect arrested in connection with the "specific threat".

But there were no reports of the suspect being connected to Hamas.

Nevertheless, the US closed its embassy and the consular office in the United Arab Emirates.

"The embassy in Abu Dhabi and consulate in Dubai have temporarily suspended operations on Wednesday, 24 March, in light of a specific threat to the embassy in Abu Dhabi," Olsin-Windecker said, reading a prepared statement. 

She said the security situation would be reviewed over the Thursday-Friday weekend in the Emirates, when the US offices also are regularly closed, to determine whether it would reopen on Saturday. 

The United States embassy in Riyadh closed for an hour after local media reports of an explosion in the Saudi Arabian capital.

It also closed its embassy in the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius.