DAMASCUS (AFP) - Hamas's exiled political chief Khaled Meshaal said his Palestinian movement was ready for dialogue with its rivals in Fatah, during a meeting on Monday with Syria's foreign minister. The talks between Meshaal and Foreign Minister Walid Moallem, the state news agency SANA reported, were focused on "the call by president (and Fatah leader Mahmud) Abbas on a resumption of dialogue" on the basis of a Yemeni mediation. The Hamas chief said his movement was "ready to take part in dialogue to achieve a reconciliation and defend the national and legitimate rights of the Palestinian people." SANA also reported that Syria hailed Abbas's initiative and offered its help to launch the dialogue and make it a success. On Sunday, Saudi King Abdullah and Abbas agreed at a meeting in the Saudi city of Jeddah that the Arab League should oversee truce talks between Fatah and Hamas, a Palestinian diplomat said. Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said on Monday that continued Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank was the biggest obstacle to peace. "We consider (the building of) settlements the main obstacle to progress on any of the issues being negotiated, because we feel that settlements are eating Palestinian land bit by bit," Abbas said after Cairo talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The talks came amid efforts by Cairo to broker a truce deal in and around Gaza, Egyptian state media reported. However, Abbas ruled out talks with Damascus-based Hamas political supremo Khaled Meshaal, saying the problem in Gaza was not a personal one between the two men. Last week, the Palestinian leader called for dialogue with Hamas, which ousted his loyalists from Gaza last June, breaking with his previous policy of rejecting any opening until the Islamists cede control of the territory. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to attend Israel-Palestinian peace talks over the weekend, Saeb Erakat, one of the Palestinian negotiators, said on Monday. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qorei will sit down with Rice in Jerusalem on Sunday to assess the negotiations and their outcome to date, said Erakat. In an interview published on Saturday, Qorei said Palestinians and Israelis will start preparing a document outlining the progress and differences in the peace negotiations. Meanwhile, the popularity of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has risen while Hamas's has fallen, in a reversal of the trend three months ago, according to an opinion poll released on Monday. Abbas has a 12 percentage point lead over Ismail Haniya, who heads the Hamas government that seized control of the Gaza Strip a year ago, the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research said. If elections were held now Abbas would get 52 percent support and Haniya 40 percent, according to the survey of 1,270 adults conducted between June 5 and 7 in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza, the centre said. A previous poll in mid-March put Haniya's popularity rating at 47 percent as support for Abbas, leader of the rival Fatah movement, fell to 46 percent. The Palestinian pollsters linked the increase in the president's popularity to his call last week for reconciliation talks with Hamas. The Islamist movement's standing, on the other hand, appeared to have been affected by its failure to achieve the opening of Egypt's border with Gaza and Israeli agreement on a ceasefire. The poll showed 46 percent of Palestinians were satisfied with the performance of Abbas, a US-backed moderate who succeeded legendary leader Yasser Arafat at the head of the Palestinian Authority in January 2005. Thirty-seven percent of respondents said they were satisfied with Haniya, who served as prime minister in the Hamas-led unity government that Abbas fired in June 2007 as the Islamists routed his forces in Gaza. In legislative elections, Abbas's Fatah movement would get 43 percent, compared with 42 percent in March, and Hamas 31 percent, down from 35 percent. The survey's margin of error was three percentage points.