Government priority

Amr el-Kakhy, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Cairo, said that he had been told by a source close to Hamas that the group's priority was to reach an agreement towards a unity government.

"If that's not possible ... then Hamas wants the joint steering committee to function independently," he reported.

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president and leader of the Fatah, said in a speech in Ramallah on Monday that any new government would have to abide by previous peace accords, but made it clear that this did not mean Hamas would have to change its position in order to join the cabinet.

"This government, which came out from the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, should abide by all the agreements signed by the PLO. I don’t say the factions should do. I want to make this point clear.

"This government's mission would be to run the nation and to undertake a supervisory role in the reconstruction of Gaza."

Hamas has insisted that a new government would not commit to previous agreements because this would mean recognition of the state of Israel, which Hamas is opposed to.

'Talks sabotaged'

A senior Hamas official reacted to Abbas's statement by saying he had sabotaged the Cairo reconciliation talks.
 
"By making such stipulations Abbas has already killed the talks," Osama Hamadan told Al Jazeera.

Hamas wants the steering committee to help facilitate presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for January 2010 and not to fall under the control of the PA, el-Kakhy said.

But the organisation will not allow the body to "organise or monitor" the vote, he said.

Relations between Fatah and Hamas have been poor since security forces loyal to Hamas pushed Fatah fighters out of Gaza in June 2007.