GAZA (Reuters) - A senior official of the Islamist militant group Hamas, echoing calls by Taliban clerics in Afghanistan, urged Muslims on Friday to unite against any U.S. retaliation for the terror attacks in New York and Washington.
In Cairo, the spokesman of Egypt's largest Muslim fundamentalist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, defended the Taliban's threat of revenge for any U.S. action against Afghanistan and urged Washington to show restraint.
``I join the cause for Muslims to be united in order to deter the United States from launching war against Muslims in Afghanistan,'' the Hamas official, Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi, said in response to the calls by clerics in Kabul.
``It is impossible for Muslims to stand handcuffed and blindfolded while other Muslims, their brothers, are being attacked. The Muslim world should stand up against the American threats which are fed by the Jews,'' Rantissi told Reuters.
Taliban clerics used Friday prayers to urge Muslims around the world to unite against the United States if it attacked Afghanistan, and threatened revenge ``by other means'' in the event of such attacks.
The United States says Osama bin Laden, who lives in Afghanistan as a ``guest'' of the Taliban, is a prime suspect in Tuesday's attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center in New York and damaged the Pentagon in Washington, killing thousands.
Hamas has carried out a series of suicide attacks in Israel during the nearly year-old Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation, killing scores of Israelis.
The Palestinian Authority, led by President Yasser Arafat, had no comment on the Taliban's call for Muslim unity.
In Lebanon, Hamas representative Osama Hamdan said of the Taliban's call ``It is their right to demand that no steps be taken until the facts are clear. This is a natural right. When the facts become clear then it's another story.''
EGYPTIAN GROUP DEFENDS TALIBAN
In Cairo, Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Mamoun Hudaibi defended the Taliban position. ``What else can they say when the United States is threatening to bomb them?'' he asked.
While stating that Tuesday's terror attack on the United States ``contradicts all human and Islamic values,'' Hudaibi condemned all forms of terrorism.
``We don't advocate terrorism, whether it's from people or governments,'' he said. ``We hope that the United States itself does not take terrorist steps,'' he added.
Some Palestinians in Gaza voiced fears the United States would attack Afghanistan and punish an entire nation for the attacks.
``The Taliban should not be used as a scapegoat. The United States is behaving like a wounded and bleeding lion that wants to hit everywhere and anything,'' said Fares Abbas, 25, a Gaza taxi driver.
Gaza shopkeeper Hani Aoudi, 45, said: ``As Arabs and Muslims condemned the terrorist attack on the United States, they have to warn the United States against any attack of madness on Afghanistan or elsewhere.
``The United States must wait for the result of the investigation and then decide through the United Nations and not alone as usual,'' he said.
In Beirut a man giving his name as Hussein said Israel had killed thousands of Arabs and Muslims over the years ``but we haven't seen the United States move at any point... to stop Israel.''
Now the United States wants Muslims to join it in fighting Muslim Afghanistan ``for the sake of one terrorist who does not speak in the name of Arabs or Muslims,'' he said.