Gaza Hamas chief to visit Iran this week: officials


The Hamas prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniya, is on Friday to make a visit to Iran, which is celebrating the anniversary of its 1979 Islamic revolution, Iranian government officials said.

The Palestinian leader was to be received by Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi, the officials said, without giving other details or the duration of the visit.

Media said Haniya would hold talks with Iranian officials and receive an honorary degree from Tehran University.

But sources close to Haniya, currently on a tour of Arab states in the Gulf, could not confirm the visit, which the Palestinian daily Al-Quds said leaders in the Gulf were urging him to call off because of their strained ties with Tehran.

Israel views Hamas as a terrorist group and has accused Iran of being its main arms supplier.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is to give a speech on Saturday to mark the day 33 years ago the revolutionaries claimed victory over the deposed regime of the U.S.-backed shah, has strongly backed the Palestinian cause.

He has voiced Iran’s longstanding policy of rejecting the continued existence of Israel and of supporting foes of the Jewish state, including the Islamist movement Hamas.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, last week called Israel “a cancerous tumor that must be removed, and God willing it will be.”

Hamas this week signed a deal with its rival, Fatah, which runs the West Bank under Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, to form a consensus government ruling both Palestinian territories.

Israel has rejected the union, and warned Abbas to choose between reconciliation with Hamas and making peace with the Jewish state.

A senior Fatah official has told AFP the new Palestinian government would be announced in Cairo on February 18.