Non-Aligned officials deny Hamas invited to Tehran summit

Palestinian officials had slammed invitation as a stab in the back; Abbas threatens to skip meeting if Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh attends

Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the Hamas government in Gaza (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash 90)
Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the Hamas government in Gaza (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash 90)

Hamas did not receive an official invitation to attend the Non-Aligned Movement conference in Tehran, officials from the body said on Sunday morning.

The statement, reported by AFP, contradicted earlier reports that Hamas head Ismail Haniyeh had been invited by Iran.

Haniyeh’s acceptance of the invitation, reported on Saturday by AFP, drew sharp ire from Fatah officials in the Palestinian Authority, which said it was the only representative of the Palestinian people.

On Saturday, the Palestinian foreign minister said Abbas would not participate at the summit of non-aligned nations in Iran at the end of the month if Hamas also attends.

Riad Malki said the Palestinian Authority was seeking clarifications from Iran after Hamas announced it had been invited to the August summit and that Hamas’ prime minister Ismail Haniyeh would attend.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on Saturday called on Haniyeh not to accept the invitation, saying his attendance would be a stab in the back for Palestinian national unity.

The summit, scheduled for this week in Tehran, is expected to bring together some 50 world leaders, including United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki moon and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi.

Israel has lobbied countries and Ban to skip the summit, which Iran is touting as a bulwark against international isolation.

Fayyad condemned Iran’s invitation and said the Islamic Republic was “against Palestinian national unity,” Israel Radio reported.

Abbas’ secular, Western-backed Fatah party and the militant Islamic Hamas are bitter rivals. Violence between the two sides in 2007 left the Palestinians divided with Hamas ruling Gaza and Fatah governing the West Bank. Repeated attempts for reconciliation have failed.

The US, EU, Canada, Israel and other countries designate Hamas as a terrorist organization. It came to power in Gaza in 2007 after national elections followed by the violent overthrow of Abbas’s Fatah from Gaza.

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