Key talks on forming a Palestinian unity government and ending domestic fighting were canceled Saturday night. "The meeting was postponed until tomorrow (at the earliest). We hope that it will be held," Izzat Rashaq, a member of Hamas' politburo, told The Associated Press.
Rashaq said further negotiations were needed to resolve differences over forming a coalition government before Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal could meet.
Another senior member of a Palestinian faction also told AP the meeting had been postponed. "There are difficulties facing such a meeting and there are current mediations to try and resolve the problems," he said.
There had been hopes that the meeting could end the growing political crisis between Hamas and Fatah.
As Abbas held talks with leading members of other Palestinian factions Saturday evening, his aide Saeb Erekat played down the significance of any talks with Mashaal. "The purpose of this visit is for President Abbas to meet with (Syrian) President (Bashar) Assad, though I'm not excluding the possibility of President Abbas meeting with Mr. Mashaal and other Palestinian leaders in Damascus," Erekat told reporters.
Abbas met with the Syrian-based leaders of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Islamic Jihad at his hotel in the Syrian capital.
Rashaq, the Hamas official, said Islamic Jihad leaders and the leaders of other Palestinian factions were involved in mediation efforts to try to resolve the problems between Hamas and Abbas' Fatah movement. "We hope an agreement can be reached," he said.