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Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas and Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal are due to meet in the Egyptian capital Cairo on Thursday in a bid to cement a reconciliation deal that has stalled for more than six months.

After a summer of scepticism over prospects for a real rapprochement between Abbas's secular Fatah movement and its Islamist rival Hamas, a new optimism has emerged in recent weeks.

"President Abbas intends to deploy all possible efforts to reach a global Palestinian agreement and reach an understanding on a common political vision for all the movements," senior Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmed told AFP on Wednesday.

He had said the previous day that the agenda of the meeting "has been set and agreed, with no time limit -- and it's not a meeting of last resort."

"The meeting will focus on... the political agenda and future prospects for the Palestinians after Israeli intransigence blocked the peace process," he added.

It would also address other issues such as the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), the formation of a government and "overcoming obstacles to the implementation of the reconciliation agreement," he said.

After the meeting, they will announce a date in December for a new round of talks between all the Palestinian factions in Cairo at which all issues would be discussed "including the government," he said.

Hamas Number Two Mussa Abu Marzuk told AFP late Wednesday: "We want this meeting to open a new page and a new hope for the Palestinian people."

Fatah and Hamas, which respectively control the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, signed a surprise agreement in May to end their long-standing bitter rivalry, but it has yet to be implemented.

It called for the immediate formation of an interim government to pave the way for presidential and parliamentary elections within a year.

But the two sides have so far failed to agree on the composition of the caretaker government and, in particular, who will head it.

Abbas is understood to have insisted on keeping his prime minister Salam Fayyad, a former IMF official who is highly regarded abroad, in a demand which has been repeatedly rejected by Hamas.

But on Tuesday, Ismail Radwan, a Hamas leader in Gaza, said both sides had agreed to rule out Fayyad as a candidate.

"That issue has been resolved and we are now discussing the general criteria for choosing a head of government in accordance with the reconciliation agreement," he told AFP.

A Palestinian independent who recently met Hamas leaders told AFP that the group had agreed to limit itself to "peaceful popular resistance" for 12 months in an offer that had been conveyed to Abbas and helped bring about the Cairo meeting.

Hamas, he said, was grappling with the fact that although a successful unity deal would allow Fatah the freedom to act politically in Gaza, Hamas would not be free to do the same in the occupied West Bank over fears it would provoke a crackdown by Israeli forces.

PLO Central Council member Ahmed Majdalani said the future of Hamas's armed forces in Gaza was also a sensitive matter.

"The security issue is complex and delicate as it is one of the main means for Hamas to ensure its control of Gaza, and it is not easy for it to give up its weapons," he said.

"Hamas has in effect stopped its military action (against Israel) for the past three years and is trying to impose its authority in the field of security in Gaza by prohibiting the firing of rockets," he added.