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Malaysia: Fatah-Hamas rivalry erodes respect for Palestinians
05/30/2006
FM tells Palestinians, "It is important to project an image of unity so that people will respect you".
Calling the Hamas-Fatah rivalry "a pity," Malaysia's foreign minister urged the Palestinians on Tuesday to unite if they want the respect of supporters worldwide. Host Malaysia dispensed the advice a day after Mahmoud Zahar, the foreign minister of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority government, boycotted a ministerial conference of the Nonaligned Movement to protest the participation of his Fatah rival, Farouk Kaddoumi. "It will be a pity if ... all of us continue to support the struggle of the Palestinian people but the Palestinian people seem to be not in unity. That is not good," Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar told reporters. The two-day meeting of NAM member countries' foreign ministers ends later Tuesday. In an interview with The Associated Press on Monday, Zahar said the Malaysian government invited only him as the official representative of the meeting, but that Kaddoumi had insisted on showing up. Syed Hamid, however, said both men were welcome to attend. Kaddoumi is the foreign minister of the PLO, an umbrella group of Palestinian factions that does not include Hamas. The PLO has traditionally conducted foreign policy on behalf of the Palestinians. "It is important to project an image of unity so that people will respect you. The feeling of this meeting is very clear. Yes, we are all for the cause of the Palestinians, but the Palestinians must create unity among themselves," Syed Hamid said. Syed Hamid denied that Malaysia committed a diplomatic gaffe by allowing both to come. "There is no such thing as a diplomatic mistake. The mistake is not on the part of Malaysia. If one of the parties feels uncomfortable or doesn't want to attend, there is nothing much we can do," he said. Syed Hamid, however, stressed that Malaysia doesn't want to interfere in the Hamas-Fatah feud and refused to comment on Zahar's statement to the AP that Malaysia's decision was "not acceptable." "I do not want to get into a debate with Mr. Zahar. He can have whatever opinion he wants to have," he said. "I think he made the right decision maybe by not attending. So their differences are not seen in public."
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