Fatah and Hamas officials - AP - June 13, 2010
Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa with Fatah and Hamas officials in Gaza, June 13, 2010. Photo by AP
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Unity talks between Hamas and Fatah in Cairo broke off Tuesday until next week without agreement over a new Palestinian prime minister, a Palestinian negotiator said.

Unifying rival governments in the West Bank and Gaza is seen as essential for Palestinians seeking statehood.

Fatah negotiator Azzam al-Ahmad said talks will resume in a week, this time with two top figures in attendance — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal.

Naming a premier is one of the main disputes.

Hamas officials taking part in the talks said Tuesday that the sides agreed that the current Western-backed prime minister, Salam Fayyad, will leave his post. Al-Ahmad denied that.

Hamas sees Fayyad, a popular moderate, as too close to the West. Fatah believes the U.S.-educated economist is the best candidate to ease concerns that donor money might go to Hamas.

Israel, the U.S. and EU label Hamas a terror group. Hamas does not recognize Israel and has refused to renounce violence. In past years Hamas has sent dozens of suicide bombers into Israel, and Palestinian militants have fired thousands of rockets at southern Israel from Gaza.

Fatah and Hamas have been violently at odds since 2006, when Hamas won a parliamentary election. Fighting between the sides culminated in Hamas successfully wresting control of the Gaza Strip from Fatah forces in 2007. Since then, Hamas has governed Gaza, while the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, led by Fatah, has governed in the West Bank.

Several previous attempts at reconciliation between the sides have failed.