Ex-Hamas Chief Wants Talks with Obama

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DAMASCUS, Syria - In an interview with Britain's Sky News in Damascus, exiled Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal said President-elect Barack Obama must factor Hamas in any regional peace deal.

"We are ready for dialogue with President Obama and with the new American administration, with an open mind, on the basis that the American administration respects our right and our options," Mashaal said, according to Sky News.

"The American administration, if they want to deal with the region, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli conflict, they have no other option than deal with Hamas because we are a real force on the ground," Mashaal said.

"And we are a movement that won a majority of votes in the election ," he said, adding that it's untrue "that Hamas poses any danger to anyone."

"There is no doubt that the recent American election is a big change, when you get an American president with African roots. It's a big change, politically and psychologically, and it's noteworthy," the Hamas chief said.

Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar Assad also extended his congratulations to President-elect Obama, just two weeks after the U.S. helicopter raid on Syrian soil near the border with Iraq provoked an angry reaction.

Assad congratulated Obama, "expressing hope that dialogue would prevail to overcome the difficulties that have hindered real progress toward peace, stability and prosperity in the Middle East."

Sources: YNet news, The Associated Press

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