By Nidal al-Mughrabi
GAZA (Reuters) - Hamas has presented what it described as a new Palestinian unity initiative, a move widely seen as an attempt to pre-empt any public pressure for change in the territory it runs while revolt flares in the Arab world.
The proposal, raised with several factions at a meeting late Wednesday, called for a unified leadership to handle Palestinian affairs until the Palestine Liberation Organization is restructured to include Hamas and the Islamic Jihad group.
Hamas's main rival, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement, boycotted the three-hour session and officials from other factions said no progress was made. Hamas, an Islamist group, seized Gaza from forces loyal to Abbas in 2007 and reconciliation efforts led by Egypt have gone nowhere.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the new initiative showed the movement was serious about restoring unity. Fatah voiced skepticism.
"After four years of split, we need decisions not initiatives," Fatah spokesman Ahmed Assaf said in the West Bank, where the mainstream movement holds sway.
Drawing further Fatah criticism, Hamas announced Thursday a minor reshuffle of its Gaza-based government, an administration sacked by Abbas after the 2007 armed takeover.
"The president had fired this government after Hamas carried out a coup, so the Hamas administration is illegitimate," said Assaf.
Hamas says Abbas, president since 2005, has no mandate to rule because Palestinian elections have not been held since 2006. Abbas said last month a poll promised by September would not take place if Hamas held fast to its refusal to allow voting in the Gaza Strip.
Rival factions had rejected a Hamas invitation to join the reshuffled government, which was approved by the group's legislators in Gaza Thursday.
(Additional reporting by Mohammed Assadi in Ramallah; editing by Philippa Fletcher)