Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has invited Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to attend the Non-Aligned Movement summit set to take place in Tehran at the end of August, Haniyeh's office announced Friday according to Palestinian news agency Ma'an.
The invitation could spark protest from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who was invited months ago and has said his attendance is contingent on being the only Palestinian representative at the summit.
PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki told Ma'an that the invitation to Haniyeh did not necessarily intimate the Hamas leader's attendance.
The NAM summit has been at the center of diplomatic controversy in recent weeks, with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu telling UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to stay away from the event. “Mr. Secretary-General, your place is not in Tehran,” he said in a telephone conversation with the UN chief. Ban’s office officially confirmed the secretary-general's attendance just days later.
Earlier this month, Egypt's Islamist President Mohamad Morsy announced that he would attend the summit, which would mark the first such visit by an Egyptian head of state since the 1979 Islamic revolution and Egypt's recognition of Israel. At the 16th summit meeting of NAM leaders, which will be held August 26-31, Iran will take over from Egypt the chairmanship of the organization for the next three years.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Monday that the United States is against high-level diplomatic visits to Iran by Egyptian and UN officials.
"Iran is going to try to manipulate this NAM summit and the attendees to advance its own agenda, and to obscure the fact that it is failing to live up to multiple obligations that it has to the UN Security Council, the IAEA, and other international bodies," Nuland said. "So we, frankly, don’t think that Iran is deserving of these high-level presences that are going there."
Israel has redoubled its efforts to convince members of the international community not to attend the conference, saying the attendance confers legitimacy on Tehran's regime. Indeed, Iran is already trumpeting the meeting as a sign that the country is not isolated.