Hamas moves to join PLO umbrella

Hamas moves to join PLO umbrella

CAIRO - The Associated Press
Hamas moves to join PLO umbrella

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal (L) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas shake hands before their meeting in Cairo December 21, 2011. REUTERS Photo

The Hamas militant group has agreed to join the Palestine Liberation Organization a key step toward unifying the long-divided Palestinian leadership.

Hamas' leader Khaled Mashaal on Thursday joined a committee that will prepare for elections to the PLO leadership.

Those elections are likely years away but Mashaal's move means he will work with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, head of the rival Fatah party.

The PLO is the umbrella group of the Palestinian independence movement.

Thursday's development is an important step toward reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah which have been split since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007.

Separate elections in the West Bank and Gaza for a unified parliament are tentatively set for next year.