The Iranians have offered their services as mediators to end the Fatah-Hamas power struggle, PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Saturday.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made the offer during a meeting last week in Tehran with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement conference, Erekat said.

“It was a very frank and calm meeting,” he said of the Ahmadinejad-Abbas encounter, the first of its kind since the PA president was elected in 2005.

Abbas reassured the Iranian president during the meeting that the PA’s diplomatic moves were based on international laws, as well as the establishment of a Palestinian state on the pre-1967 lines with east Jerusalem as its capital, Erekat said.

The Iranians have long been opposed to any peace process with Israel. They are also opposed to the two-state solution and believe that Israel has no right to exist.

Ahmadinejad offered to host reconciliation talks between Fatah and Hamas in Tehran, Erekat said. He added that Abbas reiterated his readiness to end the dispute with Hamas and pointed out that Egypt and Qatar had been making huge efforts to achieve reconciliation between the two rival parties.

Abbas complained to the Iranian president that the reconciliation process stopped after Hamas banned the Palestinian Central Election Commission from registering voters in the Gaza Strip – as envisaged by the latest Doha Accord between the two sides.

Abbas also told Ahmadinejad that if Iran wanted to help achieve reconciliation, it should do so through Cairo, which was sponsoring negotiations between Fatah and Hamas.

Hamas, meanwhile, rejected the Iranian offer, saying it preferred that the Egyptians continue to sponsor the reconciliation talks.

Salah Bardaweel, a Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip, pointed out that his movement had accepted Egyptian mediation even when president Hosni Mubarak was still in power. Egypt, he added, was “closer to Palestine and has huge influence on the Palestinians and the future of their cause.”

Relations between Hamas and Iran have been strained ever since the Islamist movement refused to publicly support Syrian President Bashar Assad – a move that led to the expulsion of Hamas’s top leaders from Damascus.

Bardaweel said that it was time for Hamas to stop being dependent on Iran and others.

He said that Abbas was the one who had suspended the reconciliation agreement with Hamas under American and Israeli pressure.

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