A spokesman for Palestinian resistance movement Hamas has slammed Israeli threats and lobbying to distance his group from upcoming legislative elections.
Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri on Monday said Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's appeal to the European Union to support a ban on Hamas in the elections was "clearly Israeli intervention in internal Palestinian affairs".
"It is also a failing political manoeuvre," he added.
Sharon, who attended last week's UN World Summit, said on Monday in an address to US Jewish leaders: "I talked today to the secretary-general of the United Nations. I talked to every European leader about this issue.
"I asked them that they will understand our position about that and they have to put pressure that the Hamas people can participate in the elections only once they hand over their weapons and they ban the Hamas covenant," he said in English.
"I would like very much to help Abu Mazen (Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas)," said Sharon.
"I am going to see him on 2 October," he announced.
Sharon and Abbas, who declared a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in February, last talked on 21 June at Sharon’s Jerusalem residence.
In response to Sharon's calls for Hamas to be disarmed, al-Masri said: "What weapons is Sharon talking about? The armed resistance is not related to the internal situation and the elections.
"I talked today to the secretary-general of the United Nations. I talked to every European leader about this issue"
Israeli prime minister
"The resistance is only related to the existence of [Israeli] occupation of our land and its aggression against our people," he added.
"If Sharon wants to halt our resistance, then he should leave all our lands," al-Masri said.
"The Zionists want peace and agreements according to their terms only. They also want legislative elections that satisfy their whims and fancies," he added.
"We can carry out the elections under the occupation. This is what actually happened when we carried out the municipal elections in many West Bank areas," al-Masri told Aljazeera.
Sharon insisted Abbas' hopes that a Hamas role in elections would transform it into a political player was a "major mistake" and threatened that Israel would disrupt balloting in the occupied West Bank if Hamas ran.
An aide to Sharon said that would mean no easing of Palestinian access to polling stations in the area dotted by Israeli military checkpoints, or help in arranging voting in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem.
Palestinian officials have urged Israel not to interfere in their internal politics.
Hamas, which made a strong showing in recent municipal elections, is expected to do well in the parliamentary poll at the expense of Abbas' Fatah group.
A UN statement meant to provide an account of Sharon's meeting with Secretary-General Kofi Annan made no mention of Hamas as a topic of their discussions.
Sharon (L) met George Bush on
the sidelines of the UN summit
The statement said Annan told Sharon Israel needed to support the Palestinian Authority as it took full control of Gaza.
Annan later met Palestinian Foreign Minister Nasser al-Kidwa, telling him the Gaza pullout was an important opportunity for the Palestinians and expressing hope it would mark a step towards the full resumption of peace talks, a separate UN statement said.
Al-Kidwa "stressed that it would be impossible to solve all of Gaza's economic, political and security problems without further movement forward in the West Bank as well", it said.
Palestinians have welcomed the end of 38 years of Israeli military rule in Gaza but worry Israel may try to tighten its grip on settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Palestinian officials also made the issue of access to Gaza their mantra in recent weeks.
A June 2004 report published by the World Bank warned that if the Israeli closure policy was not changed, the Palestinian economy would not revive, and poverty and alienation would deepen.
Israel controls all access points to the impoverished Gaza strip of 1.5 million people.
It is not clear to what extent that will change now that the pullout has been completed.
According to the original plan, Israel will maintain control over Gaza's entry points as well as air and sea space.
Additional reporting from Laila El-Haddad in Gaza