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 think that Jimmy Carter is suffering from "self-delusion." He believes that he is still the President.
Carter is not representing the U.S. As the article says, he runs the Carter Center. He represents nothing more than that.
Meeting with a group is not supporting them.
Meeting with a group is not agreeing with anything they may say.
Meeting with them does carry an implicit acknowledgement that they are a significant player in the region – but anyone who can't see that is pretty blind to start with.
He looking for trouble!!!!
Leave it to the Bush administration to dictate orders to everyone and tell them who they can and cannot meet. The man is going to talk to them about pursuing peace – something the state department should have been doing instead of this failed policy of isolation – you won't do what we want so we will "isolate" you until you obey us.
Maybe former Pres. Carter is seeking the truth to find a solution in this region. It makes sense to do so if you only are talking to the favorable diplomats and you only hear one side of a problem. You've got to talk to all parties, that's the only way of finding a solution.
Yes, you fools, we MUST have a dialogue with people who want to kill us... er, uh... I mean "convert" us. Er, uh, I mean...
I'm not one to disrespect former presidents, not even "ol Wild Bill," but this is proof positive that any good judgement Jimmy Carter may have possessed is clearly gone. Hey, I wore a uniform once and I'm all for peace too, but not at the cost of bowing and appeasing our enemies. Carter is going to apparantly "listen to Hamas' grievances." I'll tell you their greivances and save you the plane ride... "We want to shove Israel into the sea and convert or destroy the decadent Infidel West, but we cannot carry out these plans if you insist with your 'war on terror.'" There ya go, Jimmy... I saved you a plane ride, a plane full of fuel and saved you from contributing more to your imaginary "man-made global climate change."
Well put SwilliamP. I'm happy to read that not everybody that posts in here is the kind that would bomb first and ask questions later.
Angus McDugan – Carter meeting w/Hamas does not mean he supports them – How on earth do you come up with that conclusion?
Jimmy Carter was able to broker peace in the middle east when he was president...Given the total lack of ability regarding peace that this current regime has, why shouldn't he give it a shot?...The only thing that Bush/Rice et al., are able to broker is war & death...Perhaps they are afraid he will make inroads and make them look worse than they do already...Is that even possible?
POLITICAL JUNKIE No truer words have been spoken: Hamas was put in charge by a democratic vote of the people of that country. Like it or not you either believe in the democratic process or you don't
Jimmy Carter is his own man! His wisdom is guiding him to do what is right!
I suggest we sit back and support him while he does his job.
One more example of the Bush Administration believing that the best ways to handle diplomacy is by ignoring and admonishing anyone who doesn't agree with them. I don't believe that this report stated that President Carter was "representing" the U.S.
Let's not forget, also, that every American has the right of free speech. At least that's what I thought while spending four years in the Marine Corps!!!!
Len in Washington
Carter is a fool.
I think what Carter would like to do is admirable. The U. S. has long favored Israel and treated the Arab world as second rate - except for the oil producing countries. We have always sided with the Israelis and never understanding and sympathizing with the Palestinians and their plight. I wonder what American would appreciate living in the conditions the Palestinians live in.
I see nothing wrong in communicating with the other side. Perhaps if we hadn't ignored their needs, they wouldn't be terriorist.
Nancy's comment is a clear demonstration of viciousness borne out of her total ignorance. Get a brain.
Has a former President ever been charged with treason? He mind as well just aid and abet the enemy. What is wrong with him? Is he going to bring a gift, too.
Jimmy Carter is NOT anti-Israel. He negotiated the longest lasting, most durable, and now fully institutionalized peace treaty between Israel and an Arab country (Egypt).
What he IS – is a practitioner of peaceful conflict resolution and mediation, a field that dictates that you talk to all the major stakeholders in a conflict.
He is only anti-Israel when judged from the perspective of the most blindly pro-Israel administration this world has ever seen.
If this is a way to a way over peace in the Middle East, then so be it. The people i.e. Jews and the Palestians are brothers and they need to start acting according....Jimmy Carter is a true "Christian Man with Faith...let him do whatever good he can....he a builder like Jesus the Hu/man....Habitat for Humanity.
Jimmy Carter is trying to make up for diplomacy time lost during his Presidency. I think Carter's believes in making peace. Unfortunately, most of the Western world is pro-Israel (since most of the western countries helped established Israel in the middle east) and the Middle East is pro-Palenstian. I would prefer that the Bush Administration engage both the Israelis and Palenstinans (Hamas included), but someone has got to get Hamas, Iran, Lebanon, and Syria on-board with a two state solution.
A humanitarian that can talk peace? Why does Bush not want
Jimmy Carter to go an talk peace. It will take someone like Mr.
Carter to make some sense of the mess we are in.
He's a grown man, he can meet with whomever he pleases. What's bush scared of?
The enemy is Hamas not Isreal, people. No one should know that better than Carter. The only good thing he has done in a offical capacity was broker peace between the State of Israel and the Egyptian Rep. Hamas are terrorists (puppets of Iran).
What we need to consider is that even tho we dont agree on things. We can sit with them and discuss isssues..If I am not correct issues are not resolved unless we talk them out..If no talking is involved. Doesnt the turn of events just get worse? I think we need a different strategy. Communication. It could save Billions of dollars. Think about it.
Carter was the worst president ever! What a disaster his 4 years in the WH were...the Hamas meeting goes to show that he hasnt changed.
Carter is a great leader and negotiator. I'm very proud of you President Carter.
Only a stronge leader talks to the 'enemy' while a weak leader, like bush, stays in the background making noise. Well done Mr Carter!!
LET"S GET REAL HERE!
You can't solve the problem if you don't speak to all sides in the issue!
OBAMA/NUNN in 2008