By Ali Sawafta
RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - A planned announcement on Tuesday of a new Palestinian unity government has been delayed after the Fatah and Hamas movements failed to agree on a prime minister, Fatah officials said on Sunday.
Fatah, led by Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, nominated Salam Fayyad, an internationally respected former World Bank economist who currently heads the Palestinian government in the West Bank, to the post.
Hamas, an Islamist movement that seized the Gaza Strip from Fatah forces in 2007, has rejected Fayyad, an independent, accusing him of cooperating with Israel in a blockade of the territory.
"We asked our brothers and the Egyptian leadership to postpone the meeting for several days," said Azzam al-Ahmed, head of the Fatah delegation to unity talks in Cairo, citing Abbas's busy schedule.
"We will call them in a few days to set a date for a new meeting, and we hope the next session will be successful," he told Reuters.
Other Fatah officials, who asked not be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue, attributed the delay to the dispute over appointing Fayyad.
Asked whether the meeting had been postponed, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza said the group was awaiting formal notification of a delay from the Egyptian hosts.
Last week, Palestinian officials said Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal would meet in Cairo on Tuesday to unveil the new government.
Under a reconciliation accord reached in April, the rival factions agreed to form an administration of technocrats, consisting of ministers without party affiliations, to prepare for general elections within a year.
Fayyad supporters say his standing abroad was an asset for the Palestinians in ensuring the continued flow of international aid and in pursuing a bid for U.N. recognition of Palestinian statehood, expected in September.
Israel has said the reconciliation accord, brokered in secrecy by Egypt, would not secure peace in the Middle East and urged Abbas to carry on shunning Hamas.
(Additional reporting by Saleh Salem in Gaza; Writing by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem; Editing by Dan Williams )