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New Hamas Leader Calls Bush 'Enemy of God, Enemy of Islam' - 2004-03-28

The new head of the militant Islamic group Hamas in Gaza has criticized President Bush's support for Israel and described him as an enemy of Muslims.

In a fiery speech at Gaza's Islamic University, Hamas chief Abdel Aziz Rantisi said he was not surprised that the United States vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution last week condemning Israel's killing of the Hamas spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.

The United States said the resolution was unbalanced because it condemned Israel without condemning the terrorism that Israel is fighting.

Mr. Rantisi said his organization has designated President Bush as "the enemy of God, the enemy of Islam and Muslims." He specifically threatened President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. And he said Hamas will lead Palestinians to victory over the United States and Israel.

The military wing of Hamas has been responsible for frequent suicide bombings and other terror attacks that have killed Muslims and hundreds of Israelis. But Mr. Rantisi said last week that Hamas would not start attacking American targets.

Many Arabs and Muslims have been angered by U.S. support for Israel and the leading American role in the invasion of Iraq. Some also see the global war on terrorism as an assault on Islam.

But U.S. officials, including President Bush, vehemently deny such allegations, saying terrorist groups like Hamas threaten Arabs and Muslims as much as they threaten the West.

Israel has vowed to continue targeting terrorist leaders as it prepares to possibly withdraw its troops and settlements from the Gaza Strip, a Hamas stronghold.

Mr. Rantisi was selected to lead Hamas in Gaza following Israel's missile strike against Sheikh Yassin last week.

Mr. Rantisi also accused Arab leaders of weakness after the Arab League called off a two-day summit that was to have begun Monday. Efforts to convene the summit were abandoned when the countries could not agree on issues related to proposed political and social reforms for the region.

The Palestinian Prime Minister, Ahmed Qureia, also criticized the Arab League, saying the organization had missed an opportunity to deal with the region's problems - including the Palestinian demand for statehood and the future of Iraq.