Hamas has announced that it has declined an invitation to a meeting of 120 developing nations in Tehran this week, staving off a potential confrontation with rival Palestinian leaders in the West Bank.
Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas' leader in Gaza, had accepted the invitation over the weekend but backtracked on Sunday "in order that the participation would not be an introduction to deepening a Palestinian, Arab and Muslim division over the Palestinian cause," said Hamas spokesman Taher al-Nunu.
Iran's invitation to Hamas to attend the annual Non-Aligned Movement conference infuriated the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, which sees itself as the sole legitimate representative of all Palestinians.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has been at loggerheads with Hamas since his forces lost control of Gaza in a brief but violent confrontation with the group in 2007.
Abbas had also accepted an invitation to the conference, but his aides mulled cancelling the trip if Haniyeh attended.
"We won't allow Palestinian representation to be torn apart – we won't allow anyone to do this," Abbas told a cheering crowd at a civic event in the West Bank capital of Ramallah on Sunday.
"We are capable of looking after ourselves and our dignity and we want unity and want to return to this unity," he added.
The Non-Aligned Movement conference, a grouping of developing nations founded during the Cold War, has emerged from obscurity with this year's summit – largely thanks to the fact that its revolving leadership has passed to Iran.
Iran hopes to earn diplomatic points by hosting the summit from Aug. 29-31 at a time when the West is seeking to cripple its economy and isolate it diplomatically over its disputed nuclear program.
Israel and the United States have already exhorted U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to cancel his planned attendance because of Iran's involvement.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Ban earlier this month he would be making "a big mistake" if he attended the summit, AFP reported.
Egypt, last year's chair of the organization, will be represented by newly-elected president Mohammed Morsi.