His enthusiasm comes despite hardliners saying they would not do so.

“There has been progress in the negotiations with Palestinian factions about ending the militarisation of the intifada,” said Mr Abbas, in Qatar as part of a tour of the Gulf states.

“Intensive discussions are under way with the (Hamas) movement and others with a view to reaching an agreement to calm down the situation,” he said.

Mr Abbas is the front-runner to succeed the late Yasser Arafat in January 9 elections for Palestinian Authority president.

“I am hopeful about (the position of) the Palestinian factions which had agreed to a 53-day truce when I was prime minister (last year), and I hope we will reach an agreement before, or perhaps after, the elections,” he added.

However Mr Abbas’ comments come as spokesmen for Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip rejected his argument that using weapons since the second intifada began four years ago was a mistake.

“Such declarations run counter to the consensus among our people over the legitimacy of the resistance,” said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.

“The problem is the Israeli occupation and not the resistance.”

Mohammed al-Hindi, a leader of Hamas’ smaller rival Islamic Jihad, said: “the Palestinians need weapons of resistance against the Israeli occupation.”

In a newspaper interview earlier this week, Mr Abbas said the use of weapons is harmful and “must stop”.

It was his strongest condemnation yet of the armed factions’ tactics since assuming the interim leader role after Mr Arafat’s death a month ago.

While he concedes he has received no guarantees from the armed groups that they would agree to a truce, he said a committee is speaking with them every day, and their demands are under consideration.

His willingness to upset the militants has won him praise from Israel and the United States.

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