Hamas’s upper echelon will select an heir to political leader Khaled Mashaal next week, an Arab daily reported Wednesday, naming current deputy chief Moussa Abu Marzouk as the front-runner following the withdrawal from the race of the Islamist organization’s prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh.

The Shura Council, Hamas’s highest consultative body, is set to meet in Doha to nominate the head of Hamas’s political bureau, the London-based daily Al-Hayat reported. The meeting was originally slated to take place in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, but was relocated to Qatar “for security reasons,” the paper said.

Mashaal has been serving as Hamas’s political leader since 1996, based first in Jordan and from 1999 in Damascus, which he left earlier this year to relocate to Qatar as violence in Syria intensified. Arab media have reported that Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood was pressuring Mashaal to remain in office one term longer.

Asked about reconciliation talks with the rival movement Fatah, Abu Marzouk told Al-Hayat on Wednesday that a main stumbling block was Fatah’s demand to hold general elections as a first step. Hamas, said Abu Marzouk, insists on the formation of a unity government before elections go forward.

Hamas won by an overwhelming majority in the last general elections held by the Palestinian Authority in 2006, violently taking control of the Gaza Strip in the following year.

Addressing reports of back-channel negotiations with the US administration, Abu Marzouk said Hamas had no problem with engaging in dialogue with the United States, although he acknowledged an American legal ban on any contact with Hamas.

“We have no reservations on communicating with any international party, be it the Americans or others,” Abu-Marzouq said. “But we utterly reject contact with the Israelis. That issue is definitely not on the table.”