Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas leader, said on Tuesday it is "highly expected" that a Hamas member would become the new prime minister, but he said it was too soon to talk about names.

Hamas officials are holding talks in Egypt about forming a new Palestinian government after the group's landslide victory in the poll on 25 January.

They have said they want a new administration to include the defeated Fatah faction, which long dominated Palestinian politics, but had not previously said they expected to secure the post of premier.

Authorisation

"Given that Hamas is the biggest bloc in the parliament, President Abu Mazen will authorise someone from inside Hamas to form a government," Haniyeh said.

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader also known as Abu Mazen, has said the new government must respect interim peace deals made by the Palestinian Authority with Israel. 
   

"Given that Hamas is the biggest bloc in the parliament, President Abu Mazen will authorise someone from inside Hamas to form a government"

Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas leader

The United States and the European Union, which both list Hamas as a terrorist organisation, have threatened to cut off aid to any government run by Hamas unless the group renounces violence and abandons its charter commitment to Israel's destruction.

Hamas  said it would never recognise Israel but might be willing to negotiate terms for a temporary truce with the Jewish state.

Asked if Hamas could form a government without Fatah or other Palestinian political forces, Haniyeh said: "It can, but it wants to strengthen participation [of others]."

Hamas leaders have previously indicated that the group might establish a government of technocrats so as not to compromise the financial aid that props up the near-bankrupt Palestinian Authority.