Carter Urged to Shun Hamas

Friday, April 11, 2008

The State Department said yesterday it had advised former president Jimmy Carter against meeting Hamas leader Khaled Meshal in Syria next week, saying the idea goes against U.S. policy of isolating the militant group.

Carter discussed his upcoming trip to Damascus with the State Department's point person in Israeli-Palestinian issues, David Welch.

"We counseled against it," said department spokesman Sean McCormack.

Carter, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, plans to visit Israel, the West Bank, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Jordan during a nine-day trip due to start Sunday. "This is a study mission and our purpose is not to negotiate but to support and provide momentum for current efforts to secure peace in the Middle East," the Carter Center said in a statement.

The delegation will include former first lady Rosalynn Carter and former congressman Stephen J. Solarz (D-N.Y.), the Center said. Initially Carter had hoped to go with a group of elder statesmen, including former U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan and former South African president Nelson Mandela, but the others decided the timing was wrong.

-- Reuters

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