RAMALLAH, West Bank - Top members of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement agreed on Wednesday to hold its first congress in 20 years in August in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
The secular movement, which dominated Palestinian politics for decades until losing a 2006 election to Hamas Islamists, had spent some four years wrangling over convening a congress that would set it on a path of reform and democratisation.
Fatah's Revolutionary Council (FRC) voted 67 to 11 to hold the meeting on Aug. 4 in Bethlehem, officials said, after Egypt and Jordan refused to play host.
Fatah's last congress -- the fifth in the movement's 44-year history -- was held in 1989 in Tunisia. It has never convened on Palestinian territory.
But plans for gathering the forum's 1,550 delegates could hit a snag if Hamas, which took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 after routing forces loyal to Abbas, bans some 400 members in the territory from participating.
Abbas has asked Egypt, which is sponsoring Palestinian reconciliation talks, to press Hamas to let Fatah members in the Gaza Strip travel to the West Bank.
Hamas banned 10 Gaza-based Fatah activists from participating in the FRC meeting in the West Bank, Fatah officials said.
Abbas has also to secure agreement from Israel to allow Fatah members based in neighbouring Jordan, Syria and Lebanon to enter the West Bank. It was not immediately known how many members are expected to attend from abroad.
Abbas hopes to gain political clout by healing rifts between Fatah members in exile and those based in the Palestinian territories who have lived under Israeli occupation and have been on the front line of a struggle for statehood.
Abbas wants the congress to grant wider representation to a younger generation of Fatah activists. (Editing by Matthew Jones)