The tally, announced by the Palestinian Authority's supreme council for local elections on Sunday, showed Hamas scored victories in nine councils against 16 for Fatah, with the two factions tied for control of one municipality.

The election, the first contested by Hamas, was held in 26 districts with scores more to follow next year.

The official figures, broadly in line with preliminary results released two days ago, were likely to put pressure on Mahmud Abbas, the Fatah candidate who is expected to succeed Yasir Arafat in a 9 January presidential election.

Dry run

The 23 December municipal election, the first in the occupied West Bank since 1976, had been seen as a test of strength between Fatah and Hamas as well as a dry run for the organisers of next month's election.

Turnout was estimated at up to 90%.

Hamas has waged a resistance campaign in a four-year-old uprising and has spurned efforts by Abbas to establish a truce.

It is boycotting the presidential election.