Abbas to visit Iran for first time for NAM summit

AFP , Sunday 8 Jul 2012

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agrees to attend the Summit of Non-Aligned Movement that will be held in Tehran, it marks Abbas's first visit to Iran

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas will attend a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Iran in August, his first trip to the Islamic republic, his spokesman told AFP on Sunday.

"President Abbas today received an official invitation to participate in the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Iran and the president informed the Iranian envoy that he would attend the summit," spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeinah said.

He said the invitation had been extended to Abbas as he stopped over in the Jordanian capital Amman, where Iran's deputy foreign minister for the Middle East requested that the Palestinian leader attend the August 30-31 summit in Tehran.

"Abbas thanked the deputy foreign minister and asked him to convey his greetings to President (Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad. He said he would respond positively to the invite and attend the summit," Abu Rudeinah said.

The Non-Aligned Movement is a grouping of nations that consider themselves independent of the world's major political blocs.

Abbas's first visit to Iran as president comes despite the fact that he has traded barbs with Tehran.

Iran is a backer of the Islamist Hamas movement that has long been in conflict with Abbas's Fatah, and the Palestinian president has accused Tehran of trying to stymie attempts between the factions to reconcile.

"Iran instructs them to do this or to do that, not to do this or not to do that," he said last April. "They obey their instructions."

And Iranian government officials have regularly criticised any attempt to achieve a two-state solution, a formula that Abbas has long supported.

Last year, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that "any plan which would lead to the division of Palestine is unacceptable."

"Any plan that would create two states... would be accepting a Zionist state in the land of Palestine," he said.

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