Fatah and Hamas leaders were to meet in Gaza City on Monday to hold talks on an emerging Palestinian Authority national unity government, and officials said the former head of Gaza's Islamic University was a leading candidate for the post of prime minister. Mohammed Shabir, 60, did not deny he was a candidate for the post of prime minister, but said he had not been officially designated. Shabir, who has a doctorate in microbiology from the University of West Virginia, is considered to be close to Hamas but not an active supporter. "No one has informed me officially of this designation. This report can become a reality only if President Abbas designates me officially as prime minister," Shabir told The Associated Press. Hamas and Fatah hope that Shabir, considered to be relatively moderate, will be acceptable to the international community and help convince the West to lift debilitating economic sanctions that have crippled the government since it took power in March.