The top Hamas leader on Thursday welcomed what he said is "new language" by President Barack Obama toward the Islamic militant group - part of Hamas' cautious outreach to Washington in recent weeks, Associated Press reported.
In a televised speech, Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal avoided any mention of the recent turmoil in Iran, even though the Islamic militant group is backed by the Tehran regime.
Earlier Thursday, Iran's hardline president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, accused Obama of meddling because of growing U.S. criticism of Iran's clampdown on opposition protesters. Iran's other militant ally, the Lebanese Hezbollah group, has sided with Iran's ruling clerics.
Hamas has been trying to reach out to the Obama administration in hopes of breaking out of its international isolation and prying open the borders of blockaded Hamas-ruled Gaza.
The U.S. and Europe consider Hamas a terror group and have said they will only engage if Hamas recognizes Israel and renounces violence. Hamas has rejected those conditions, saying it cannot make such concessions up front.
In a speech to the Muslim world earlier this month, Obama insisted that Hamas meet the conditions, but also suggested the group could play a political role in the future.
"Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have to recognize they have responsibilities," Obama said at the time. "To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, recognize Israel's right to exist."
Mashaal on Thursday praised what he described as "Obama's new language towards Hamas."
"It is the first step in the right direction toward a dialogue without conditions, and we welcome this," he said.
However, he said the U.S. must respect the Palestinians' democratic choice; Hamas overwhelmingly won Palestinian parliament elections in 2006.
The Hamas chief-in-exile also said Obama remains too sympathetic toward Israel, despite the president's pledge to work hard for the establishment of a Palestinian state.
"Obama spoke widely about the suffering of Jews and their Holocaust in Europe but ignored the talk about our suffering and Israel's Holocaust that has been going on for decades against our people," he said.
Mashaal also railed against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said in a recent speech that Israel would retain sovereignty over all of Jerusalem, keep building in Jewish settlements and demand Palestinians recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state.
"The enemy's leaders call for a so-called Jewish state is a racist demand that is no different from calls by Italian Fascists and Hitler's Nazism," Mashaal said.
Mashaal said his group will keep working on a prisoner exchange with Israel to win the release of hundreds of Palestinians in return for Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit, who was captured three years ago near Gaza.
"So far, the Israeli intransigence has stopped all efforts but we are still ready to reach a prisoner exchange," Mashaal said. "Netanyahu's only choice to get back Schalit is a serious deal."
Mashaal called on Obama to pull out Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, the U.S. security coordinator in the region, who is supervising the training of Palestinian forces in the West Bank.
Hamas overran Gaza two years ago, leaving Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas only in control of the West Bank. Abbas has been clamping down on Hamas in the West Bank since the Gaza takeover, and some 2,100 U.S.-trained Palestinian forces play a key role in that effort.
Mashaal said Dayton's force "is the main obstacle to the success of Palestinian reconciliation talks" that are being sponsored by Egypt.
Mashaal said a Hamas delegation will be flying to Egypt to take part in Sunday's talks with representatives of Abbas' Fatah movement.