GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – The Palestinian Authority must end its peace talks and security coordination with Israel if it ever expects to reconcile with Hamas, one of the militant group's senior officials said Sunday.
Osama Hamdan also vowed that Hamas will continue to bring in arms to the Gaza Strip despite an Israeli blockade of the coastal territory.
Hamdan's remarks are bound to complicate Arab efforts to reconcile the militant group, which controls Gaza, and the Fatah faction, led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, ruling the West Bank.
Hamdan is Hamas' representative in Lebanon and is close to top Damascus-based leader Khaled Mashaal.
His tough conditions came a week after Israel ended a devastating 23-day war to stop Hamas rocket fire that Palestinian officials say killed about 1,300 people. Thirteen Israelis were also killed.
Saeb Erekat, a top aide to Abbas, rejected Hamdan's statements and said talks should take place without any conditions.
"The important thing is to end the division and have a government of national unity to carry on the reconstruction of Gaza," he told The Associated Press. "All Palestinian factions should come to the dialogue under the Egyptian umbrella without any conditions."
Hamas seized control of Gaza from Fatah by force in 2007, leaving the Palestinians divided between two governments. To aid in reconstructing the battered seaside strip, Arab officials are looking to heal the rift between the Palestinians and bring them once more under a unity government.
Speaking at a rally in Beirut, Hamdan said his organization welcomed an inter-Palestinian dialogue but linked reconciliation with Fatah to the Palestinian Authority ending peace talks with Israel and backing Hamas' armed resistance against the Jewish state.
"We say clearly that we welcome a national Palestinian dialogue but this dialogue must include those who really belong to Palestine and to the Palestinian cause," he said.
Hamas officials have accused Abbas' government of working with Israel against the militant group.
"Those who committed mistakes must correct their mistakes through a clear and frank declaration to stop security coordination with the (Israeli) occupation, release (Hamas) prisoners and later end negotiations (with Israel) because the peace process is irreversibly over," said Hamdan.
"It's time for us to talk about a reconciliation based on a resistance program to liberate the (occupied) territory and regain rights," Hamdan said.
The Palestinian Authority has been conducting peace talks with Israel for more than a year.
The U.S. and Israel consider Hamas a terrorist group. It is sworn to Israel's destruction, a stance that has brought international efforts to isolate Gaza under its rule.
Hamas leaders, who claimed "victory" in the Gaza war, have insisted Hamas have sole control over all international donations to rebuild Gaza, saying Fatah cannot be trusted to handle the aid.
In his Sunday's speech, Hamdan vowed that Hamas will continue to bring in arms to Gaza despite the Israeli blockade and international offers to help in preventing arms smuggling.
"Acquiring arms is our right. We will continue to bring in arms to Gaza and to the (West) Bank," he said.
Hamdan said since the cease-fire took hold last Sunday, Hamas has begun replenishing its arsenal and upgrading the weapons it has.
He also said sending warships to prevent arms smuggling to Gaza would not affect Hamas' armament.
Also Sunday, the Damascus-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine — General Command said in a statement faxed to the AP in Damascus that France's participation in a maritime blockade of Gaza's coast would "make it an enemy of our people ... and make its interests, wherever they are, subject to direct targeting by our Muslim nation."
On Friday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy ordered a frigate deployed immediately to the waters off Gaza in an effort to fight arms smuggling.