Hamas leader to visit Iran, Qatar in new trip

By the Associated Press | January 12, 2012 | 4:16 AM EST

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — An adviser to Hamas' prime minister says the leader will visit Iran, Qatar and other Muslim countries at the end of the month.

Yusef Rizka says the militant group's Ismail Haniyeh will embark on his second official international trip outside the Gaza Strip. He returned this week from a tour of Egypt, Sudan, Turkey and Tunisia.

It was the first time Haniyeh had left Gaza since Hamas seized control of the territory from the rival Fatah movement in 2007.

Hamas says the visits indicate the movement's increased international recognition, and the growing influence of Islamic groups in the region.

The internationally-recognized Palestinian Authority, which is dominated by Fatah, has been concerned by the warm welcome Haniyeh has received. It says his visits should be coordinated through Palestinian embassies.