In an audiotape message broadcast by Aljazeera on Sunday, the al-Qaeda leader said the decision by Western governments to halt aid to the Hamas-led government and impose other sanctions proved the West was in a "crusader war" with Islam.

 

Commenting on bin Laden's message shortly afterwards, Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for Hamas, said the group's ideology was "totally different" from that of bin Laden and al-Qaeda.

 

"What Osama bin Laden said is his opinion, but Hamas has its own positions which are different to the ones expressed by bin Laden," he said.

 

However, he said that what he called the "international siege on the Palestinian people" would inevitably lead to tensions in the Arab and Islamic world.

 

"It's natural that this tension is going to create an impression that there is a Western-Israeli alliance working against the Palestinians"

Sami Abu Zuhri,
Hamas spokesman

"It's natural that this tension is going to create an impression that there is a Western-Israeli alliance working against the Palestinians," Abu Zuhri said.

 

He added that Hamas was "very keen to have good relations with the West" but said that Western policies were inflaming tensions.

 

In the past, Hamas leaders have distanced themselves from al-Qaeda, saying their struggle is only against the Israeli occupation and does not fit into the group's worldwide radical Islamist effort.

 

Bin Laden also called "upon the mujahidin and their supporters in Sudan and its surroundings - including the Arabian Peninsula - to prepare to lead a prolonged war against the "crusader robbers in western Sudan". 

 

Ahmed Hussein, from the Justice and Equality Movement, a Sudanese rebel group, said: "We categorically reject these declarations.

 

"His words are completely disconnected from the reality in Darfur. Bin Laden is still preaching the theory of an American-Zionist conspiracy when the real problem comes from Khartoum, which is a Muslim government killing other Muslims."

 

He warned that such comments risked "encouraging the Khartoum regime to perpetuate injustice and its strategy against Darfur".