King Abdullah of Jordan has called off a meeting with George Bush, due to take place tomorrow, after questioning America's commitment to the Middle East peace process.
The meeting has been rescheduled for May while discussions over the United States' position take place, a statement released by the royal palace said yesterday. Jordan is seen as a key ally for the US in the region and the announcement indicates the scale of Arab anger at President Bush's support for Israel's plans to keep Jewish settlements in some occupied territories while withdrawing from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank.
The announcement followed an earlier call yesterday by the political leader of Hamas for an Arab and Muslim coalition to "defeat both the United States and Israel".
Khaled Meshaal was speaking at a memorial service for the Gaza group's assassinated leader, Abdel Aziz Rantissi, who was killed by an Israeli missile strike on Saturday. Mr Meshaal told hundreds of supporters at a Palestinian refugee camp near Damascus, Syria, that the 22 Arab states and 30 non-Arab Muslim countries should "make an alliance, even a temporary one, to combine capabilities against the enemy".
Last night, a series of Qassam rocket attacks were carried out by Palestinian militants on the Israeli Gaza settlement of Nitsanit, causing three people to be slightly injured. The attacks followed the firing of up to nine other rockets in an apparent surge of attacks on settlements in Gaza and the Negev desert. The rocket attacks three of which were claimed by Islamic Jihad caused no other reported injuries.
Speculation persisted yesterday over the leadership of Hamas in Gaza despite a widespread assumption that Mahmoud Zahar had taken over after Mr Rantissi's assassination. Dr Zahar, 53, a physician, is seen as the senior member of the faction in Gaza. He is head of the nursing department at the Islamic University.
But Wesam Afifeh, editor of the pro-Hamas al-Risala newspaper, said that he doubted whether Hamas had yet appointed a new leader in Gaza.
Some analysts believe the death of Dr Rantissi will result in the organization reaching some form of accommodation with the Palestinian Authority after Israel's withdrawal from the strip promised by its Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon.
© 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd