According to party member Jamil Shehedah on Monday, the revolutionary council decided to delay the Fatah general conference and requested the central committee reschedule the event.

Fatah's central committee, the party's highest executive, has 16 members while the revolutionary council has more than 100 members.

Shehedah blamed the delay on scheduling needs, and stressed a requirement for preparatory meetings within the Palestinian territories and abroad.

He said the meeting would have preceded the date Israel is to begin its scheduled disengagement from the occupied Gaza Strip.

Election delays

On Sunday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas moved to shore up support for reform in Fatah after his decision to postpone parliamentary elections drew condemnation from Hamas, the party's Islamist rival.

Hamas enjoys wide support and
was likely to do well in elections

Officially, the postponement of the polls, which had been due in July, was to allow time for changes to the electoral laws. Abbas told Palestinian television it was "necessary to enable ourselves to finalise the legal measures and (to hold) consultations between factions".

But a Palestinian Authority official said the delay also gave Fatah a chance to address internal disagreements and the mounting electoral challenge posed by Hamas.

Palestinian officials said the vote - the first for the Palestinian parliament since 1996 - could be delayed by up to six months.

Hamas reaction

Hamas officials denounced the postponement, announced on Saturday, as a violation of Egyptian-brokered agreements between Fatah and rival factions, which helped Abbas secure a ceasefire with Israel earlier this year.

But they stopped short of pulling out from the truce.

The organisation's official website claimed Abbas had responded to US fears that the Islamist resistance movement was likely to win the elections.

"This is particularly true since the Zionist entity [Israel] rejected the democratic process that could lead to the victory of representatives of Hamas and the Palestinian resistance and bring them to the Legislative Council," it said.