Hamas said it will not hinder plans to drill for natural gas off the shores of the Gaza Strip after it took control of the coastal territory a week ago, a Hamas official said on Friday.

Sami Abu Zuhri, a senior Hamas official, said the group would not block an agreement between British gas producer BG Group Plc and the Palestinian Authority to drill for reserves discovered off Gaza's coast in 2000.

But Hamas would like to change some parts of the deal - reached between BG and the Palestine Investment Fund (PIF), which is controlled by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas - that Abu Zuhri said "harm Palestinian interests".

Under the current agreement, BG plans to sell the natural gas to Israel. Britain and other Western countries have isolated Hamas because of its refusal to recognize Israel and renounce violence.

"There will not be a problem to cooperate with the British company, but it is important to reconsider some things in this matter," Abu Zuhri said.

In December 2000, BG completed drilling a natural gas well offshore Gaza indicating possible reserves of around 1.4 trillion cubic feet, which the PIF said has an estimated value of e1.3 billion.

BG was unavailable for comment.

"It is premature to discuss whether Hamas wants to begin direct negotiations with the British company over drilling national gas off Gaza shores," Abu Zuhri said, but added, "We do not want to overturn existing situations."