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Hamas offers fake Palestinian passport to top Muslim cleric

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The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) on Friday accused Hamas movement of offering a fake Palestinian passport to top Muslim Cleric Sheikh Yousef al- Qaradawi.

The PNA Interior Ministry said in a statement that it had sent official letters to countries that recognize the PNA, clarifying that the passport, which was given to Qaradawi, is "fake."

The PNA is ruling the West Bank and its Interior Ministry is the legal Palestinian body that is authorized to issue passports to the Palestinians or to give it to other nationalities as an honor.

Qaradawi, who began on Thursday a two-day visit to the Hamas- ruled Gaza Strip, was honored by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haneya and was offered a diplomatic red Palestinian passport.

Hamas has been ruling the Gaza Strip since it violently seized control of it in the summer of 2007. The world does not recognize the rule of Hamas of the coastal enclave and the Islamic movement is not authorized to officially issue any passport.

The PNA statement said it had urged all countries that recognize Palestinian passport to confiscate any fake one that is not issued by the legal Palestinian representative of the Palestinian people.

Right after Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas deposed Haneya and his government and nominated a new Palestinian premier who formed a new Palestinian government.

However, Haneya and Hamas refused the decree of Abbas and kept ruling Gaza. Arab and global mediators have so far failed to end the division between Gaza and the West Bank and achieve reconciliation between the two rivals.

Qaradawi, 87, is the top Arab cleric for Arab Muslims. The Egyptian-born has close ties with the Muslim Brotherhood.

PNA Minister of Waqf (Islamic properties) Mahmoud al-Habbash slammed the visit of Qaradawi to the Gaza Strip, saying it "is illegal because it wasn't coordinated with the legal authority and legal leadership of the Palestinian people."

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