PA: Abbas Won't Participate in Tehran Summit if Haniyeh Attends

Hamas leader has accepted an invitation by Iran to attend Non-Aligned Movement conference; Fayyad says invitation is a 'stab in the back of the Palestinian national project.'

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki announced Saturday that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will not take part in an upcoming summit in Tehran if his rival, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh attends.

Al-Malki said that Abbas will boycott the Non-Aligned Movement summit if Haniyeh is present "no matter what form his attendance takes."

The Hamas-run government in Gaza on Saturday confirmed that the Hamas leader will attend the summit of 120 developing nations, according to the Palestinian news agency Ma'an.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad called on Haniyeh not to attend the summit, saying that the fact that he was invited reinforces the rift in the Palestinian people.

Fayyad described the invitation to Ismail Haniyeh as "a stab in the back of the Palestinian national project."

"The Palestinian Liberation Organization is the sole representative of all the Palestinian people," Fayyad said in a statement.

In response, Haniyeh spokesman Mohammed Awad published a statement saying that Haniyeh had no intention of responding to Fayyad.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Rahmin Mehmanparast said Haniyeh was invited as a "special guest."

"At a time when [Foreign Minister Avigdor] Lieberman is waging an aggressive political campaign, the invitation to Haniyeh to attend the NAM summit indicates that Tehran has joined the hostile Israeli chorus," the Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee said in a statement.

Iran hopes to earn diplomatic kudos by hosting a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement from August 29-31 at a time when the West is seeking to cripple its economy and isolate it diplomatically over its disputed nuclear program. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has already said he will attend, defying calls from the United States and Israel to boycott the event.

The invitation to Ismail Haniyeh, who heads the Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip, highlights the rift in the Palestinian territories and will complicate matters for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Iran has had strained relations with Abbas's Palestinian Authority, in part due to the PA's peace talks with Israel.

The PA has even accused Iran of plotting against it and of intervening in its internal affairs by inciting factions like Hamas to carry out military attacks on Israel in an attempt to sabotage the peace process.