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Iran says Hamas not invited to Non-Aligned summit


The Hamas premier in Gaza has not been invited to an August 30-31 summit of Non-Aligned Movement leaders in Tehran, Iran said on Sunday, heading off a threatened boycott by the Palestinian President.


A website closely linked to Hamas appeared to confirm the information by reporting that sources told it that Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya had finally decided to not attend the summit "after intense consultations."


The Iranian announcement and Hamas affiliated website report contradicted a statement made by Haniya's spokesman on Saturday that the Hamas leader was going to take part in the Tehran summit "in accordance with the invitation from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad."


That declaration sparked a threat from Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, relayed by his foreign minister, that he would boycott the summit.


Abbas's internationally recognised Palestinian Authority that runs the West Bank is at odds with Hamas, an Islamist group that rules Gaza.


An Iranian spokesman for the summit, Mohammad Reza Forqani, on Sunday denied that Ahmadinejad had extended any invitation to Haniya for the summit to take place on Thursday and Friday.


"Up to now, no official invitation from the Islamic Republic of Iran and the person of Ahmadinejad has been sent to Hamas's popular prime minister," Forqani was quoted as saying by the ISNA and Mehr news agencies.


"Only Mahmud Abbas has been invited to the NAM summit," he said.


Iran, a fierce supporter of the Palestinian cause, has close relations with Hamas, which it sees as a key part of a regional resistance against its arch-foe Israel.


A Hamas spokesman, Fawzi Barhum, told AFP he had no immediate comment on the report by the Hamas-affiliated website, the Palestine Information Centre, that Haniya was not going to Tehran.


"This issue is in the hands of the government," Barhum said.


But a source close to the movement said Haniya was unlikely to make the trip.


"Haniya will probably not be going to the Tehran summit," he told AFP.


According to the Hamas source quoted on the PIC website, Haniya's decision not to attend was linked to two issues: a desire not to exacerbate inter-Palestinian divisions, and issues related to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's bloody repression of a popular uprising. Assad is supported by Tehran.


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