The Palestinian president sent invitations for the May 2-4 conference to the Hamas government, armed groups and members of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

The conference is to focus on ways to break the siege and boycott imposed on the Palestinians, "reinforcing unity and confronting the financial crisis", the invitation read.

In the face of a severe curtailment of aid by the US and EU after Hamas swept January elections, the Palestinian Authority has failed to pay its 160,000 civil servants for the last two months.

The conference looks to spark a broad, inclusive debate among Palestinians, with businessmen, university deans, mayors and newspaper editors invited to attend.

Aziz Dweik, the Hamas parliamentary speaker, had appealed to Abbas in mid-April to hold such a conference to bridge the gap between Hamas and other factions including Abbas's Fatah movement.

The Palestinians' economic woes have been exacerbated by a power struggle between Hamas and Abbas, particularly for control of the government's security apparatus.