Monday, March 15, 2010

Abbas: IR Iran Hampering Unity Talks

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The Jerusalem Post /

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has blamed Iran for impeding reconciliation between his Fatah faction and its archrival Hamas. “Iran doesn't want Hamas to sign the Cairo reconciliation document,” Abbas said during a visit to Tunisia on Friday. Abbas said Hamas objected to signing an Egyptian-brokered deal with Fatah because of opposition from Teheran, and argued that the Palestinians should be “free from Iranian tutelage.” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast denied the accusations on Saturday, claiming Iran’s position regarding the Palestinian issue involved “unity and solidarity of Palestinian factions in face of the Zionist regime.” “Both Fatah and Hamas are unable, for whatever reasons, to reconcile at the moment,” Dr. Samir Awwad, a professor of international relations at Birzeit University told The Media Line. “President Abbas would want to come up with reasons to justify why the national reconciliation has failed after so many months of disagreement. He’s pointing to possible involvement of regional powers, and this time he’s naming Iran.” Abbas’s statements come in the run-up to the Arab League summit in Libya starting March 27. Analysts have suggested the accusations might be an attempt by Abbas to garner more support from Arab countries against Iran and Hamas.

Sunni Arab countries are anxious over the prospect of Iran becoming a regional nuclear power in the Middle East as Tehran continues to defy international demands to abandon its nuclear program. Regional powers, including Egypt, are concerned Iran is gaining political clout, which might tip the local balance of power. “Iran is trying to create a coalition with Hizbullah, Syria and Hamas and that’s how [Abbas] interprets many of Hamas’ positions,” Awwad said. “There is regional support for Hamas from that coalition.” Awwad said that despite coalition attempts, he does not believe Iran carries much weight in internal Palestinian politics, rather that Hamas itself wants to hamper the talks in order to defer a reconciliation deal and buy time before setting a date for elections, at a time when opinion polls suggest Hamas’s popularity is waning. But Israeli intelligence sources claim there are close ties between Iran and Hamas, and supporters of Abbas’s position say Iran has an interest in involving itself in local Palestinian issues in order to show Egypt that it is a dominant power in the region. Egypt’s recent efforts to bring about an agreement between the Palestinian factions have so far failed, despite going on for more than a year. (Read more...)