Hamas seeks new date for unity deal

CAIRO: A Hamas delegation met Egypt's intelligence chief Omar Suleiman on Saturday to try to set a new date for the signing of a Palestinian unity deal, a member of the Islamist movement's team said.

"We have met General Omar Suleiman" but the results of the talks in Cairo will be announced later, Mohammed Nasr told AFP.

However, another Hamas official, Ezzat al-Rashq, told Al-Jazeera television that the movement could "not shake hands with (Palestinian leader Mahmud) Abbas at this point in time" to seal an Egyptian-mediated deal.

He called first for an apology from Abbas over the Goldstone report on the Gaza war last December-January.

The Hamas team led by exiled senior political leader Mussa Abu Marzuk travelled to Cairo to request "a new, appropriate date for the new session of inter-Palestinian dialogue," a Hamas spokesman in Gaza told AFP earlier.

"The atmosphere is not right for the signing of an accord," he said.

Hamas, which rules Gaza, has asked Egypt to delay the signing of the deal which Cairo as mediator had announced for later this month, a source within the Islamist group said on Wednesday.

Egypt had announced at the start of the week that bitter rivals rivals Hamas and the mainstream Fatah party of Abbas would travel to Cairo to sign the long-delayed reconciliation deal on October 25-26.

The postponement was requested because of the controversial decision by the Palestinian delegation at the UN Human Rights Council to drop its backing for an immediate vote on a damning report on the Gaza war, the Hamas source said.

The UN report, authored by respected South African judge Richard Goldstone, accused Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes during the 22-day war that killed 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.

Hamas has been at the forefront of criticism levelled at Abbas over the delay on the Goldstone report, saying the move "betrayed" the Palestinian victims of the offensive.

The president, who has also faced a storm of criticism across the Arab world, has since sought to backtrack, saying he welcomed a move by Libya to hold an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the report.

On Thursday, Fatah urged Hamas to join forces to press for international action against Israel over the damning UN report.

Fatah and Hamas have increasingly been at odds since January 2006, when the Islamists routed the long-dominant secular party in Palestinian parliamentary elections.

A week of deadly street battles ended with Hamas routing pro-Fatah forces from Gaza in June 2007.