The Palestinian Authority on Sunday called on Palestinians to keep their distance from the warring factions in Lebanon, saying any intervention in the conflict would harm the interests of the 450,000 Palestinians living there. PA President Mahmoud Abbas warned against "suspicious" attempts to involve the Palestinians in the fighting between Hizbullah and supporters of the US-backed government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora. Abbas said he was following with concern the latest developments in Lebanon and expressed hope that mediation efforts to solve the crisis would succeed. "We are keen on Lebanon's unity and stability," he said. "We want to have the best relations with all the factions in Lebanon. The Palestinians in Lebanon are guests until they return to Palestine." Abbas said that in the wake of the Palestinians' "painful experiences" in the past, they should refrain from siding with any faction and respect Lebanon's official institutions and laws. He was referring to the Palestinians' role in Lebanon's civil war in the 1970s and '80s. However, by urging the Palestinians to respect the official institutions in Lebanon, Abbas is actually siding with the Saniora government. Despite the appeal to the Palestinians to stay away from the conflict, PA officials expressed fear at the growing influence of Iran in the region. They pointed out that the Iranians were supporting both Hizbullah and Hamas in their efforts to undermine the "moderate" governments in Ramallah and Beirut. The officials also voiced concern that Hizbullah's armed coup d'etat would embolden Hamas and other radical Palestinian groups in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. "Hizbullah is doing exactly what Hamas did in the Gaza Strip," said one PA official. "Of course we are very concerned about the negative role that Iran is playing in Beirut and the Gaza Strip." Another official in Ramallah noted that Hizbullah and its political allies in Lebanon have been "inciting" against the PA and Abbas by accusing them of being pawns in the hands of the US and Israel. "Hizbullah sees no difference between the Palestinian Authority and the Saniora government," he said. "As far as Hizbullah is concerned, we are CIA and Mossad agents. They see us as traitors serving the interests of the Americans and Zionists in the Arab world." The official launched a scathing attack on Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah for using arms to seize large parts of Beirut. "Only two leaders have occupied Beirut in the past few decades," he said. "One of them was Ariel Sharon and the second Hassan Nasrallah. Beirut is the third Arab area to be occupied by the Shi'ites after Basra and the Gaza Strip. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants to establish an Islamic state in Lebanon like the one he's already created in the Gaza Strip with the help of Hamas." Palestinian columnist Suleiman al-Wa'ari said Hizbullah had been inspired by Hamas's violent takeover of the Gaza Strip. "These two Islamic groups are seeking to establish Islamic republics through violent means," he said. "It's unfortunate that they have not learned from the experience of other Islamic organizations that came to power through democratic means." Hani al-Masri, a political analyst closely associated with the PA leadership in Ramallah, expressed fear that a civil war in Lebanon would have negative repercussions on the Palestinian cause. "What is happening in Lebanon is linked to the events in Palestine and Iraq," he said. "Like Palestine and Iraq, Lebanon is now facing sectarian and factional divisions. Iran, on the other hand, is on the way to becoming a major player in the region at the expense of Israel."