BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Informed sources told Ma'an on Monday that Iran's Supreme Leader had asked Gaza premier Ismail Haniyeh to the Non-Aligned summit in Tehran, but Iran was later forced to withdraw the invitation.
Haniyeh announced the invitation on Friday, drawing ire from West Bank officials who said President Mahmoud Abbas would pull out if the Hamas premier attended.
An Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman later said only Abbas had been invited to represent Palestine. Haniyeh then insisted he had declined the invitation, citing Palestinian unity.
Sources said the debacle started when Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei invited Haniyeh, while Abbas was invited officially by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The Non-Aligned movement's coordination body in New York objected to Khamenei's intervention, and said it would hold Iran responsible for the absence of Palestine at the summit, and thus its failure.
On Sunday morning, the Iranian foreign ministry was forced to call Haniyeh and withdraw the invitation.
The source said Khamenei wanted to show Egyptian President Muhammad Mursi that Iran retained influence over Palestinian affairs, and that Mursi was infuriated by Iran's position, deciding to leave the summit after his speech.
They added that Abbas feels betrayed by Iran as he had defied the US and Israel by agreeing to attend the summit in the first place.
In addition, Hamas politburo chief Khalid Mashaal had advised Haniyeh to stay out of the fray, the source noted.