Hamas decided to delay the signing of a reconciliation treaty with Fatah due to pressure from Iran and Syria, Senior Fatah figure Mohammed Dahlan said Monday.
Dahlan, a member of Fatah's Central Committee, told reporters in Ramallah that "due to the nature of its relations with Iran and Syria, Hamas is finding it difficult to reach a decision and is impeding internal (Palestinian) reconciliation because of foreign interests."
Egypt has been struggling to broker a reconciliation agreement between the two main Palestinian factions for months and this month proposed an agreement that would see new elections held in June.
Fatah has signed the agreement while Hamas has repeatedly postponed its official response, saying it needs more time to mull the deal.
"Hamas has a bigger stock of lies than Netanyahu," Dahlan said during the press conference, referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"They got everything they asked for in the Egyptian document, and we in Fatah knew that our position would draw fire from the sons of Fatah... But despite all this we agreed to it," he said.
Dahlan insisted that in the absence of a deal Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who heads Fatah, would call elections for January in accordance with the constitution.
"We have taken our final decision to go to elections at the constitutionally appointed time... because we respect the law," he said.
The bitter divisions between Fatah and Hamas go back to the start of limited Palestinian self-rule in the 1990s, when Fatah strongmen cracked down on the Islamist militant group.
Their divisions boiled over in June 2007 when Hamas - which had won parliamentary elections a year before - drove Abbas' loyalists from Gaza in a week of bloody clashes, seizing control of the impoverished territory.
A poll published on Sunday indicated that anger among Palestinians over President Abbas' original position on a Gaza war report critical of Israel has cost him public support in a rivalry with Hamas.
Abbas said his administration erred in approving a UN decision in Geneva two weeks ago to delay action on the Goldstone Report, which accused both Israel and Hamas of war crimes but was more critical of Israeli actions.
Hamas criticized Abbas' decision to back the deferral of the UN vote on the report and said it constituted "a serious crime against our people, a betrayal to the blood of our martyrs and collaboration with the Zionist enemy."
The survey, published by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Centre (JMCC), indicated Abbas would receive 16.8% of the vote, with Hamas Islamist leader Ismail Haniyeh running neck-and-neck with 16%, if a presidential election was held now.
In terms of overall popularity in the West Bank and in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, Abbas' rating dropped to 12.1% from 17.8% in the previous JMCC poll in June. Haniyeh's approval rating held steady at 14.2 percent.
Abbas reversed course last week, and in a special session proposed by the Palestinians the UN Human Rights Council endorsed the report.
AFP and Reuters contributed to the report