Hamas Usama bin Laden

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the group's ideology is vastly different from Al Qaeda's but noted that international sanctions on the Hamas-led government would naturally anger some Muslims.

In his first message in three months, bin Laden said in an audiotape aired Sunday that the West's decision to cut off funds to the Palestinians because their Hamas leaders refuse to recognize Israel proved that the United States and Europe were conducting "a Zionist crusader war on Islam."

The United States and European Union have cut off hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinian Authority since Hamas formed its Cabinet late last month. The West says it will shun the Hamas-led government until the Islamic militants recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept existing peace agreements.

Israel also cut off its monthly transfer of about $55 million in taxes it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.

"The blockade which the West is imposing on the government of Hamas proves that there is a Zionist crusader war on Islam," bin Laden purportedly said on the tape.

There was no way to independently verify the authenticity of the tape.

In response, Abu Zuhri said "the ideology of Hamas is totally different from then ideology of Sheik bin Laden." But he also added that the "international siege on the Palestinian people" would create tension in the Arab and Islamic world.

In the past, Hamas leaders have distanced themselves from Al Qaeda, saying their struggle is only against Israeli and does not fit into the worldwide radical Islamic movement.

"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, adding that Hamas is interested in having good relations with the West.

Al Qaeda is believed to have no direct links to Hamas, which is an outgrowth of the Muslim Brotherhood, but they share an anti-Israel ideology that calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.

Recent media reports in the Middle East have said Al Qaeda is building cells in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon and Sudan.

Israel has indicted two West Bank militants for Al Qaeda membership and a Palestinian security official has acknowledged Al Qaeda is "organizing cells and gathering supporters," although Israeli officials say the inroads appear to be preliminary.