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Carter: Hamas to accept peace, under conditions

Latest update : 2008-04-21

Three days after talks with former US President Jimmy Carter, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal told a news conference he would recognise a Palestinian state within its 1967 borders, but not the state of Israel. (Story: C.Moore)

 

WASHINGTON - The United States said on Monday it saw no change in Hamas's positions after former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said the Islamist group would accept a peace deal with Israel if the Palestinians voted for one.

 

Speaking in Jerusalem after he met the group's top official on Friday and Saturday, Carter said Hamas leaders told him they would "accept a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders if approved by Palestinians."

 

He was referring to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which Israel occupied the 1967 Middle East War, and to a referendum on a peace deal Washington hopes to clinch this year.

 

But some of Hamas's commitments to Carter, in talks he held with its leader Khaled Meshaal in Damascus, were short on details and remarks by a Gaza-based Hamas official suggested the movement was not abandoning its long-held positions.

 

Hamas, which is viewed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union and Israel and whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel, has refused to accept that the international community has laid down for dealing with it.

 

These include recognizing Israel's right to exist, respecting previous peace deals and renouncing the use of violence.

 

"I can't see that anything's fundamentally changed here," State Department spokesman Tom Casey told reporters.

 

"I think you can take it with a grain of salt. We have to look at the public comments and we also have to look at actions, and actions speak louder than words," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

 

Hamas Islamists, who won a 2006 election and formed a unity government with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, seized control of Gaza from his secular Fatah faction in fighting last June.

 

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. Carter appeared to deny this in an interview with National Public Radio on Monday.

 

"He (Welch) was quite positive. He never asked me, or even suggested, that I not come," Carter said. "Subsequently I saw all kind of statements out of the State Department that said they begged not to come, they urged me not to come. All of that is absolutely false. They never once asked me not to come."

 

Casey insisted that Welch urged Carter not to meet Hamas officials. "We encouraged him, and urged him, not to in fact have such meetings. Why he understood or took that conversation differently I don't know," Casey told reporters.

 

Date created : 2008-04-21

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