Former President Carter arrives in Syria

April 18, 2008 at 8:31 AM
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DAMASCUS, Syria, April 18 (UPI) -- Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter arrived in Syria Friday to meet with exiled Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal in Damascus.

While some Israeli leaders snubbed Carter because of his meeting with the terrorist organization, one Israeli minister said he would be willing to meet with Hamas leaders to negotiate the release of prisoners the group is holding, the BBC said.

A spokesman for Israeli Industry Minister Eli Yishai told Carter he would be "ready to meet with all necessary Hamas members" to discuss release of prisoners, the BBC said. Such a meeting would go against Israeli government policy.

Carter, repeatedly saying he is not in the Middle East to broker a peace agreement, says peace in the region cannot not be achieved without Hamas and Syria at the table.

The United States has distanced itself from the trip, saying Carter was visiting the area in a personal capacity.

While visiting with students at the American University in Cairo Thursday, Carter said Arabs living in Gaza were receiving fewer calories per day than people in the poorest regions of Africa, reported. However, it could not be confirmed that Carter actually visited Gaza.

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