The two top leaders of the Islamist Palestinian group Hamas met at secret talks in Qatar on Sunday to resolve an internal crisis over a reconciliation pact with the Fatah movement of President Mahmoud Abbas, a diplomat in the region said.
The first open leadership split in the 25-year history of Hamas arose over how far it should go in closing ranks with Fatah.
"Khaled Meshaal and Ismail Haniyeh met last night in Qatar to discuss the dispute in Hamas over the Doha agreement," the diplomat told Reuters on Monday, naming the two main figures in the organisation.
Meshaal has recently quit his longtime Damascus headquarters, politically embarrassed by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's bloody crackdown on an uprising waged by fellow Sunni Muslims. Haniyeh flew to Qatar from Iran.
The two Islamist leaders are not, however, on opposing sides of the internal dispute in Hamas, but are trying to resolve differences in its collegial leadership between Meshaal and Gaza-based group leaders close to Haniyeh, analysts say.
"The crisis persists," the diplomat told Reuters after the Qatar meeting. He asked not to be identified.
Hamas and Fatah have been saying for over a year that it is high time to end their damaging rivalry.
Some in the top ranks of Hamas believe that with Middle East peace talks now on the rocks, the recent rise of Islamist movements in the Arab world gives them more leverage over Western-backed Abbas than they have ever had.
But Hamas leader-in-exile Meshaal, with close ties to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, sees it as a time for accommodation rather than confrontation, together with subtle policy adjustments to end Hamas's isolation.
Meshaal and Abbas signed a pact in the Gulf state of Qatar last week, according to which Abbas would lead an interim government of technocrats with the task of preparing for overdue presidential and parliamentary elections later this year.
Haniyeh, the Hamas leader in Gaza, backed the deal but other senior Hamas figures in Gaza were vocally opposed, pitching the movement into a rare open dispute.
Haniyeh flew to Qatar from Iran, where he met leaders of the Islamist Republic. Relations have soured in past year over the lack of public support from Hamas for their common ally Assad in his handling of Syria's uprising.
A statement from Haniyeh said Iran reaffirmed its support for the Palestinian people "and by all means to reinforce the steadfastness and resistance against the (Israeli) occupation."
Diplomats say Iran aid has been suspended since August 2011.
The Qatar deal, which would make Abbas president and prime minister at the same time for the duration of the interim government, angered those in Gaza who feel Meshaal made too big a concession to the Palestinian leader in the Israeli-occupied West Bank without obtaining their approval.
Under Hamas rule, Gaza effectively runs its own affairs.
Meshaal has until recently been based in the Syrian capital, Damascus, but is now seeking new headquarters.
Haniyeh is top man in Israeli-blockaded Gaza, heading a more disparate group of senior figures with divergent views.
The Hamas-Fatah pact aims to heal five years of political division since Hamas seized control of Gaza and ejected Fatah from the enclave. Te Palestinians remain split politically, on top of geographically.
Mahmoud Al-Zahar, a senior Hamas figure in Gaza, described Meshaal's agreement with Abbas as a "mistake". Zahar clashed with Meshaal late last year when the exiled leader advocated giving Abbas more time to pursue his peacemaking with Israel.
Hamas sources say some officials are demanding that the group should have key portfolios in the proposed interim government if Abbas is to be prime minister as well as president. That would violate the whole point of the interim arrangement, which is that the government must be made up of political independents, not men from factions.
Countries including Slovakia and the Czech Republic are not prepared to join the call to impose sanctions on Russia over Ukraine.
Tehran says will share information about citizens who boarded flight with stolen passports
The French government rejects the opposition MPs' claims that executive authorities, especially the presidency, were informed of the wiretapping of former President Nicolas Sarkozy and his lawyer, Thierry Herzog.
The speaker of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People said the body remained opposed to the secession initiative but saw the parliament’s move as a positive step.
Lawyer for former military dictator Musharraf, on trial for treason, ordered removed from court for 'misbehaving'
The women were taken after soldiers without insignia spotted a pro-Maidan tattoo on one of the women's hands at a checkpoint.
Vice Admiral Michael Rogers, now the Navy's top cyber warrior, was cautious during often terse exchanges at a Senate hearing on his confirmation
Kerry and Lavrov "exchanged opinions about concrete proposals by Russia and the United States to ensure civil peace and concord" in Ukraine, the ministry said
Comments were the latest salvo in a long-running and bitter dispute between the Senate Intelligence Committee and the CIA over documents outlining the agency's handling of the detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects
Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan on Tuesday lost a confidence vote in parliament and will be replaced temporarily by the defence minister, parliament's spokesman Omar Hmeidan said.
Bomb attacks have increased since last year, raising concern about further instability in the Western-allied kingdom
In recent weeks a string of leaders have compared Modi's rise to the emergence of fascism in Europe.
Pistorius is facing separate gun charges for the two incidents, part of the prosecution's attempts to paint him as a cocky, gun-obsessed hot-head who does not like to take responsibility for his actions
Tusk said the European Union would impose sanctions on Russia starting on Monday over its military intervention in Ukraine's Crimea region
A Ukrainian airline plane was turned back on its way from Kiev to Simferopol, the region's main city, and had to return to the Ukrainian capital.
The United States says both the air drills in Poland and its joint naval exercises in the Black Sea were planned before the crisis in Ukraine