A Cairo meeting between Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal and an official of the rival Fatah movement made no headway on the formation of a Palestinian national unity government, an official said on Thursday.
Two hours of talks Wednesday night in the Egyptian capital produced "nothing new," the Palestinian official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Meshaal and his deputy Mussa Abu Marzuk discussed with senior Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmed "the possibility of advancing the reconciliation process, in particular a government of national unity, but the meeting produced nothing new," the official said.
The meeting was a bid to follow up on an agreement reached in Doha on February 6 between Meshaal and Palestinian president and Fatah leader Mahmud Abbas on the formation of an interim government of independents.
Under the deal, Abbas was to serve as head of the interim government, ending a bitter dispute between the two sides over who would assume the post.
The government line-up was to have been announced shortly afterwards, but the deal was met with opposition from Gaza-based members of Hamas, as well as some officials in the Fatah-controlled West Bank, who say that Palestinian law prevents Abbas from serving as president and prime minister at the same time.
At Wednesday's meeting, which was also attended by Egyptian officials, Fatah "stressed the importance of allowing the electoral commission to resume operations within the (Hamas-controlled) Gaza Strip so that president Abbas can set in motion the procedures to form a government, and fix a date for the elections," the official said.
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Hamas said it was possible "to resolve the question of the electoral commission through consultations with (Abbas) over the formation of the government he will head under the terms of the Doha declaration."
But the Palestinian official said he did not expect any progress towards reconciliation before the completion of internal Hamas elections, expected by mid-May.
The long-time rivals have been struggling to implement the terms of a reconciliation deal signed in Cairo in May last year, which calls for the formation of an interim government of independents to pave the way for presidential and legislative elections within a year.
Representatives from the two sides have met several times to try to hammer out a final line-up for the government and agree on who should head it.
In recent months, attempts to implement the agreement have also been affected by internal disagreements within Hamas, with its Gaza leadership accusing Meshaal of making concessions to Fatah without consulting them.
Tensions between Hamas and Fatah, which respectively control Gaza and the West Bank, spilled over into deadly violence in 2007 when Hamas forced their rivals out of Gaza and took control of the strip.
Meshaal during his visit to Cairo held talks with Ahmad Jaabari, head of military operations for Hamas's armed wing the Ezzeddine al-Qassam Brigades, an Egyptian security source told AFP.
Jaabari was recently elected to Hamas's political bureau, according to sources in the Islamist movement.