Hamas' politburo chief Khaled Meshal said Tuesday that the upcoming U.S.-backed direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are illegitimate and the result of coercion by Washington.
The talks were shelved two years ago, but the Obama administration is hoping for a breakthrough during the new rounds of negotiations set to begin Sept. 2.
"These negotiations are taking place by force of coercion and with an American summons," Meshal told reporters in Damascus, Syria on Tuesday.
He said the talks were illegitimate and "do not obligate our people to anything."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be negotiating with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who holds sway only in the West Bank, the territory between Israel and the Jordan River.
The Gaza Strip is ruled by the militant group Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel.
Addressing officials belonging to Abbas' movement, Meshal said: "Wake up. Do not allow these adventures and sins to take place in your name."
Earlier this week, Netanyahu demanded that any future Palestinian state be demilitarized and recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland.
Obama plans to hold separate discussions with Netanyahu and Abbas on Sept. 1 and then host a dinner for both leaders, which will also be attended by Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah II.
Meshal called Mubarak and Abdullah not to take part, saying the negotiations could have catastrophic results for the region.
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