Abbas confirmed last week that elections scheduled for January 24 would be postponed and said on Wednesday that Palestinian authorities were planning for the polls.

The Central Election Commission this month announced it had advised Abbas to put off the election because Hamas, which has de facto control of the Gaza Strip where some 1.5 million Palestinians live, had warned it would not allow them to vote.

Factional rivalry

The rivalry between Hamas and Fatah came to a head in June 2007 when Hamas routed forces loyal to Abbas's Fatah faction and seized control of Gaza after 18 months together in an uneasy coalition.

Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007 after routing forces loyal to Abbas's Fatah faction, and disputes Abbas's legitimacy in representing the Palestinian people.

The two groups have been engaged in long-running reconciliation negotiations brokered by Egypt, and were due to sign a unity deal last month that would have called for Palestinian presidential and parliamentary elections to be held on June 28.

But the agreement stalled after Abbas was seen to have smothered a UN report on Israel's Gaza war conduct that could have led to international prosecutions for war crimes.

Hamas said Abbas's "absurd and criminal" move to delay endorsing the report "betrayed" the Palestinian victims of the Israeli offensive in Gaza and "placed a heavy" obstacle in the way of unity.