The leader of the Islamic militant group Hamas said Thursday he welcomes President Barack Obama's new approach to the Middle East, but is waiting to see action.
In a televised speech Thursday, Hamas chief Khaled Meshal pointedly avoided any mention of the recent turmoil in Iran, even though Hamas is backed by the Tehran regime.
Hamas, which controls Gaza, has increasingly tried to reach out to the Obama administration in recent weeks. The militants are trying to bring an end to an international boycott of Hamas and a two-year border closure of Gaza.
Meshal said on Thursday that the only way for Israel to win the release of captive soldier Gilad Shalit is by striking "a full deal," and not "the way of obduracy" which he claims was characteristic of former prime minister Ehud Olmert.
Meshal added that "all methods are legitimate from the standpoint of the resistance in bringing the release of [Palestinian] prisoners."
Meshal gave a televised address from Damascus on the three-year anniversary of the raid which resulted in the abduction of Shalit.
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 Hamas meet the conditions, but also acknowledged that Hamas has wide support among the Palestinians.
Meshal said Thursday that "there has been a change in Obama's language," but that he feels the U.S. president remains too sympathetic to Israel.
"We appreciate Obama's new language towards Hamas," Meshaal said Thursday. "And it is the first step in the right direction toward a dialogue without conditions, and we welcome this."
"Dealing with Hamas and all the Palestinian resistance forces must be based on respecting the will of the Palestinian people and its democratic choice, and not based on placing conditions," he added.
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