The Palestinian Authority on Saturday expressed outrage over Iran’s invitation to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to represent the Palestinians at this week’s meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement in Tehran.

The invitation is seen as a serious embarrassment for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who is also expected to attend the conference despite American and European objections.

Abbas is now considering canceling his trip to Tehran in protest of the invitation.

Abbas agreed to participate in the conference only after he received assurances from the Iranians that he would be allowed to decide on the makeup of his delegation, a PA official in Ramallah said.

“We were surprised this weekend when Haniyeh’s office issued a statement saying he too had been invited to the Tehran conference,” the official told The Jerusalem Post.

“If anything, this shows that the Iranians deal with us as if we have two separate states.

This is a dangerous precedent and could encourage others to follow suit.”

The official said he did not rule out the possibility that Abbas would cancel his participation in the conference if the Iranians insisted on including Haniyeh.

PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad denounced the invitation to Haniyeh that was issued by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, dubbing it a blow to Palestinian unity.

Fayyad said the overture constituted a “dangerous development in the position of Iran, which is against the territorial unity of the Palestinians.”

He said it was also a blow to the PLO’s status as the sole legitimate representative of Palestinians and the PA’s role in overseeing the interests of the Gaza Strip, which is under Hamas control.

The PA’s official news agency, Wafa, quoted Fayyad as saying that Iran was acting as if Hamas, and not the PA, were the address for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Fayyad said Haniyeh’s acceptance of the invitation would be a “stab in the side of the Palestinian national project.

“This will only cause grave damage to our people’s effort to achieve freedom and independence and establish a Palestinian state on all the territories that were occupied in 1967,” he added, appealing to Haniyeh to place Palestinian interests above all considerations and reject the invitation.

Ahmed Majdalani, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, also accused Tehran of seeking to destroy Palestinian unity by recognizing Haniyeh as the legitimate Palestinian prime minister.

Majdalani said the Iranian move coincided with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s recent campaign against Abbas. He was referring to Liberman’s call to replace Abbas, whom he accused of waging diplomatic terrorism against Israel in the international arena.

Hamas said in response that Haniyeh would attend the conference despite the PA’s protests and threats to boycott the gathering.

Mohammed Awad, deputy prime minister of the Palestinian government in the Gaza Strip, said Hamas was prepared to discuss the formation of a joint PA-Hamas delegation to the conference. He said the PA should welcome the invitation to Haniyeh because it showed that the Iranians wanted all Palestinians to attend the conference.

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