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Russia invites Hamas delegation a day after embracing Abbas

Russia has invited a Hamas delegation to visit Moscow in the next few days, a Hamas official said Wednesday, just a day after Russia publicly embraced Hamas' nemesis, moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The announcement from Hamas lawmaker Khalil al-Haya came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin told Abbas in Moscow that he is the "legitimate leader of the Palestinian people."

Al-Haya said the Russian government had officially invited a Hamas delegation headed by Khaled Mashaal, the Islamic group's exiled leader, who is based in Syria. Al-Haya would not specify the date, but said the visit would be "in the coming days."

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Wednesday it had no information on a visit by a Hamas delegation.

Abbas has been governing the West Bank with a moderate government led by his Fatah movement since mid-June, when Hamas seized full control of the Gaza Strip in five days of fighting.

The international community has thrown its support behind Abbas, while Hamas remains largely isolated in Gaza.

In an interview with the daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta published Tuesday, Abbas said Russia had to make its own decision about whether to maintain contacts with Hamas.

"This is an affair for Russia as a sovereign state and does not create any problems for our bilateral relations," he was quoted as saying.

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