Hamas re-elects Meshaal as leader

Hamas re-elected its veteran exiled leader Khaled Meshaal in Cairo on Monday, said an official of the Palestinian Islamist movement that rules Gaza.

"The leaders of Hamas chose Meshaal," the high-ranking official told AFP via telephone from the Egyptian capital, requesting anonymity.

Hamas officials said earlier that the movement's governing shura council was poised to renew Meshaal's leadership for another four years, with one describing his re-election as "widely known".

Prior to Monday's vote, however, there had been speculation that the exiled leader would be forced aside by the movement's powerful leaders in the Gaza Strip, which it has controlled since 2007.

Meshaal himself had said last year that he would not seek a new term.

But developments in the Middle East since the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011 "pushed Hamas to choose Meshaal... who has given the movement a national face... and has good relations in the Arab world," one Hamas official said Monday.

Hamas officials were in Cairo on Sunday and Monday for the vote, and to discuss with Egyptian leaders reconciliation with the rival Fatah faction of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

A brilliant orator, Meshaal has used the freedom of movement that is denied to Hamas leaders in Gaza to criss-cross the Arab and Muslim world.

It was only last December that Meshaal made his first ever visit to Gaza.

He was propelled to the movement's leadership in 2004 after Israel assassinated the movement's founding leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and his successor Abdelaziz al-Rantissi in the Gaza Strip.

Meshaal himself survived an Israeli assassination attempt in Jordan in 1997 when agents of the Mossad secret service disguised as Canadian tourists bungled an attempt to poison him on a street in Amman.

Three of the attackers took refuge at the Israeli embassy, but two were captured by Jordanian authorities.

Meshaal fell into a coma and a furious King Hussein demanded Israel hand over the antidote if it wanted the captured agents to be freed.