An exiled leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas has welcomed what he calls U.S. President Barack Obama's "new language" in dealing with the Middle East.

Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal made the comment in an interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica published Sunday.

He was responding to the Obama administration's recent calls for dialogue with Iran and Syria to try to resolve long-running disputes and improve relations.

Meshaal says the challenge for the U.S. and European Union is to make Mr. Obama's appeals a "prelude" to sincere policy changes, as he put it.

Meshaal predicted that an official U.S. and European overture to Hamas is "only a matter of time," saying world powers need his group to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 in fighting with Fatah forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The U.S. and the EU label Hamas a terrorist group. They refuse to deal with Hamas unless it renounces violence, stops calling for Israel's destruction and abides by previous agreements between Mr. Abbas' government and the Jewish state.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.