Haniyeh will not attend NAM parley in Tehran

The Hamas PM declines Iranian invitation to avoid deepening divisions over the Palestinian cause.

Ismail Haniyeh 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Ismail Haniyeh 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has decided not to attend the Non- Aligned Movement conference in Tehran this week, a spokesman for the Hamas government announced on Sunday.
The decision ends a dispute that erupted between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas in recent days over who should represent the Palestinians at the conference.
The announcement came in wake of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s threat to boycott the conference if Haniyeh attended.
Last weekend, Hamas said that Haniyeh had received an invitation from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to attend the conference.
Hamas’s announcement drew sharp criticism from the PA leadership in the West Bank, whose leaders accused Iran of seeking to “solidify” Palestinian divisions by recognizing Haniyeh as the legitimate prime minister of the Palestinians.
On Saturday, PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad urged Haniyeh to reject the Iranian invitation. The PA also announced that Abbas would boycott the Non-Aligned Movement parley if Haniyeh or any other Hamas official attended.
Taher a-Nunu, spokesman for the Hamas government, said that Haniyeh apologized for not being able to accept the invitation to “avoid deepening Palestinian, Arab and Islamic divisions over the Palestinian cause.”
Hamas officials said they did not want Haniyeh’s participation in the conference to create the impression that the Gaza Strip is a separate and independent Palestinian entity.
Yusef Rizka, a political advisor to Haniyeh, insisted that the prime minister of the Hamas government did receive an official invitation to attend the conference. Earlier, the PA Foreign Ministry said that contrary to his claims, Haniyeh did not receive an official invitation.
PA Foreign Minister Riad Maliki is scheduled to travel to Tehran Monday to prepare for the arrival of Abbas. Maliki said that if he discovers that Haniyeh or any other Palestinian who is not part of the official PA delegation is in Tehran, he would recommend that Abbas stay away.