WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Bush administration has urged former President Jimmy Carter not to go forward with plans to meet with the leader of Hamas, the State Department said Thursday.
Carter may meet next week in Damascus, Syria, with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, as part of a trip to the Middle East.
Carter spokeswoman Deanna Congileo told CNN she could not confirm or deny whether any specific meeting might take place during Carter's trip.
However, a Hamas official told CNN that Carter plans to meet with Meshaal, who lives in exile in Damascus to avoid being arrested or killed by Israel.
The meeting with him had been announced as including members of a council of world leaders, including former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and former South African President Nelson Mandela, but the group issued a statement Wednesday saying they were postponing the trip.
That statement was issued shortly after U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke with Annan.
The council of world leaders, known as "The Elders," was launched by Mandela. The group was to visit Israel, the Palestinian territories, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Saudi Arabia on a peace mission.
Last month The Elders released a statement saying their mission was to "help people understand the urgency of peace."
But in their statement released Wednesday, they said the group "had planned a visit to the region in April to meet and listen to representatives from government, civil society, business and the public in Israel, the Palestinian territories, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. The Elders will continue consultations with key leaders in the region and outside with the purpose of developing a comprehensive report, but have decided to postpone their visit."
A Carter Center news release issued Thursday says the former president "will lead a study miss
ion to Israel, the West Bank, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan April 13-21."
Accompanying him, it said, will be his wife, Rosalynn, and their son Jeffrey; former U.S. Rep. Stephen Solarz; Dr. Robert Pastor, senior Carter Center advisor and professor of international relations at American University; and Hrair Balian, director of the Carter Center's Conflict Resolution Program.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Thursday the department would provide Carter with assistance on his trip, as is customary for a former president. But he added the State Department "would not participate in the planning or scheduling" or in any meetings with Hamas officials, and he counseled Carter against such talks.
"U.S. policy is that Hamas is a terrorist organization," McCormack said. "We don't believe it is in the interest of our policy or in the in the interest of peace to have such a meeting."
McCormack said that Assistant Secretary David Welch urged Carter in a phone call not to take part in the meeting, arguing doing so would be a detriment to U.S. policy in the Middle East.
Carter, who served as president between 1977 and 1981, runs the Carter Center to promote global peace, health, democracy and human rights. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.
He drew fire from Israel and Jewish groups over his latest book on the Middle East for his criticism of Israel's policy, which he said can be compared to apartheid.
Hamas, which won elections in 2006, split with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party last year after Hamas forcibly seized control of Gaza.
Washington considers Hamas a terrorist organization and has led a movement in the international community to isolate it.
In 2006, the Rev. Jesse Jackson met Meshaal during a visit to Syria against Bush administration wishes.
A meeting between Carter and Meshaal would take place amid calls from many experts in the United States and Israel to open up a dialogue with Hamas.
They claim the policy of isolation is not working.
A poll earlier this year in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz found that 64 percent of Israelis favor direct talks with Hamas.
I'm not terribly comfortable with this either...especially since he is a bit anti-Israel. I would be open to talks with Hamas, but Carter should not be representing the US without being dispatched.
"par for the course from President Carter, demonstrating a lack of judgment typical of what he does."
Jimmy Carter cannot possibly make things in the MIddle East worse. Even if he spins his wheels, the other side may absorb the message that there are Americans who are willing to listen, if not necessarily agreeing with them – as opposed to cluster bombing them, the favored communication tool of the Bush Administration for 'bad guys'.
I pray the next administration will do better in the Middle East. Condi Rice is very intelligent but is too clearly pro-Israel to be credible in a neutral role.
What is Carter thinking? He really does not support the interest of our Israeli friends. Now it appears he supports Hamas. Wow!
Maybe if I start murdering the innocent and blowing things up Jimmy will come to my aid too..
Way to go Jimmy. You have done more for the World than people know. You are a true American and an example for everyone.
What is amazing to me is the US has long supported democratically elected governments so when the people demoratically elect sthis government in a vote that everyone saw as fair and open, the US cuts and runs...Can't have it both ways folks. You either support democracy and live with the results or get out of the game. Let's not forget that US indifference helped cause the election of Hamas. Still another blunder by the current adminstration.
So it is okay to accept the Chinese government's recent actions on the Tibetians but it is not okay to meet with Hamas and come to a working conclusion. What a double standard as usual.
See Carter! He is one-of-a-kind leader who could have ended the cold war a lot better than Reagan did. He has the insight and he is open, he looks to the future.
Obama has the same qualities, better adopted for today's world.
Go President Carter. Dialog before bombs.
And the purpose is, oh yea he's going to make them recognize Israel, you go Jimmy!
You folks are deeply misled. You don't know what Hamas says and why they commit terrorist activities. You don't know what is the source of their evil acts and what is the cure to that.
You are ignorant! That's what gave presidency to Reagan and disasters begun then.
oh course the bush administration does not want carter to meet with Hamas it might lead to bigger talks towards reconciliation and peace bush nor any other right wing republicans want that they want to sit back and act as thought there religion and beliefs are the only ones that matter. Bush has never liked anyone that had true diplomacy in mind. They would not be able to funnel as much of the American's money into there accts. Good Job carter you were not the best president but you have done far more on the diplomatic front in this countries best interest then are current president the worst in US history!!!! so please consider the source and reject it your judgment in these areas has been far better than the Bush administration.
Carter is the man.
At least one Ex-President is acting responsibly. I know people love to bash Carter but his book on the situation in Israel was the closest thing to the truth that has been written by an American politician in a really long time. I applaud Jimmy Carter for being, it seems, the only American left going after a real and fair peace.
70%+ of Israelis are for meeting and talking with Hamas.
It is only the Likud (right wing neocons of Israel) Party that is for no talks.
...and wasn't Hamas party elected?
I think President Carter is one the few significant voices that has an impartial stand in the conflict. Please give peace a chance; how can we ignore Hamas, a political movement that the majority of Palestinians chose to lead their government, two years ago? They have to be part of the solution. The problem is not Hamas, it's not the jewish settlements either, it's what really created both of them: an israeli occupation of palestinian territories for over 40 years.
Typical Carter.. he's been certifying the rigged elections for Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.. always anti U.S..
However, maybe we need to begin unofficial dialogue with Hamas, and Carter would be best for the job.. he's not endorsed by the U.S. Government... but again.. who knows? go figure...
Well atleast someone is willing to talk with them.............. our current strategy isn't working at all. Maybe Carter has achange of mind, or he will act like a confused old man.............. wait maybe he should take John McCain with him... :)
What if they take him prisoner?... and keep him for a year like he left Americans in Iran...
That would be interesting!
This old fool is just as bad as the new fool the Democratic Party wants to put in a leadership role. Carter needs to stay home and stop interfering with the State Department.
Sign of things to come. Israel will be abandoned and the Radical Islamic terrorists will have free reign in the region.
do what u want jimmy- its a free world
Hamas has American blood on its hand.
We are still trying to fix his mistake of 29 years ago with Iran.
This is beyond comprehension, he has no right to do this.
The world doesn’t see Democrats and republicans the world only sees one USA.
Carter’s actions are damaging to the interests of the United State of America.
typical obama supporter-"talk with the enemies of the USA"-this makes us look weak. Is he allowed to do this in official capacity or is this guy a personal friend?