Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Carter denies State Dept. told him to shun Hamas

Go to Reuters original
ATLANTA (Reuters) - Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter denied on Wednesday that the State Department warned him not to meet with leaders of the Islamist group Hamas before he made a recent trip to the Middle East.

Carter said Hamas' top official Khaled Meshaal told him during meetings in Damascus on Friday and Saturday that Hamas would "accept a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders if approved by Palestinians."

The United States brushed off the comments on Monday, arguing that Hamas' basic stance, which includes a call in its charter for the destruction of Israel, had not changed.

The State Department has said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State David Welch, the top U.S. diplomat for the Middle East, urged Carter not to meet with Hamas, a position restated by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, but Carter denied this.

"No one in the State Department or any other department of the U.S. government ever asked him (Carter) to refrain from his recent visit to the Middle East or even suggested that he not meet with Syrian President (Bashar) Assad or leaders of Hamas," said a statement released by the Atlanta-based Carter Center, which speaks on the former president's behalf.

Hamas, which controls Gaza, is viewed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union and Israel.

The Carter Center statement said the former president attempted to call Rice before making the trip and a deputy returned his call since Rice was in Europe.


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