RIYADH - Exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshal on Monday denied the Palestinian Islamist group was being controlled by a foreign power, in an apparent reference to Iran.

"It is Hamas' leadership that makes Hamas decisions and no one has control over us," Meshaal said in an interview broadcast on Saudi state-run television channel al-Ikhbariya on Monday.

Shi'ite Muslim Iran has given the Hamas-led government financial support after Western countries blocked aid because of the group's refusal to recognize Israel or renounce violence after it was elected last year.

The move raised concern in the Arab world that Tehran was seeking to expand its clout.

"We are open to the Arab and Islamic countries ... but there is a difference between that and our policy being dependent on anyone," Meshaal said.

"Our policy is free and created by the institutional leadership of the movement. Anyone who has dealt with us knows we are not subordinate to anyone," he said, answering a question on whether Hamas was subject to "outside Islamic interference."

Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States fear Iranian influence in Iraq and Lebanon is growing.

Hamas, a Sunni Islamist group, agreed to form a unity government with the Fatah faction of U.S.-backed Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas at talks in Saudi Arabia last week in a bid to end deadly infighting.

Meshal, who is based in Syria, denied reports that Hamas received a promise during the talks in the Islamic holy city of Mecca of $1 billion in aid from Saudi Arabia.

But he said Saudi Arabia "has and continues" to offer financial aid to the Palestinian Authority. Western diplomats in Riyadh say they suspect Saudi Arabia held up some funds over the last year to pressure Hamas to soften its stance.

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