Reuters reports: The Hamas Islamist government in Gaza said it had declined an invitation to a meeting of 120 developing nations in Tehran this week, heading off a potential confrontation with rival Palestinian leaders in the West Bank.
Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’s leader in Gaza, had accepted the invite over the weekend but backtracked on Sunday “in order that the participation would not be an introduction to deepening a Palestinian, Arab and Muslim division over the Palestinian cause,” said spokesman Taher al-Nono.
Iran’s call for Hamas to attend the annual Non-Aligned Movement conference had infuriated the Western-backed Palestinian Authority (PA), which sees itself as the sole legitimate representative of all Palestinians.
PA leader President Mahmoud Abbas has been at loggerheads with Hamas since his forces lost control of Gaza in a brief 2007 war with the Islamist movement. He has since governed only in the occupied West Bank.
Abbas had also accepted an invitation to the conference. But his aides had earlier mulled cancelling the trip if Haniyeh attended.
“We won’t allow Palestinian representation to be ripped up – we won’t allow anyone to do this,” Abbas told a cheering crowd at a civic event in the West Bank capital of Ramallah earlier on Sunday.
“We are capable of looking after ourselves and our dignity, and we want unity and want to return to this unity,” he added.