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State, Hamas disputes Carter's statements

WASHINGTON, April 22 (UPI) -- U.S. State Department officials disputed comments made by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter about Hamas' views about Israel and peace.

"What is clear (is) nothing has changed in terms of Hamas' basic views about Israel and about peace in the region," State Department spokesman Tom Casey said during a press briefing.

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Hamas leaders, meanwhile, said they could accept a Palestinian state, but contradicted Carter's statements about accepting Israel's right to exist if approved by the Palestinian people, The Washington Times reported Tuesday.

"We accept a state on the (1967) line with Jerusalem as capital, real sovereignty and full right of return for refugees but without recognizing Israel," al-Jazeera quoted Hamas leader Khalid Meshaal, who met with Carter, as saying.

Carter said Hamas leaders indicated "they would accept a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders if approved by Palestinians and that they would accept the right of Israel to live as a neighbor in peace, provided the agreements negotiated by (Palestinian Authority) President (Mahmoud) Abbas were submitted to the Palestinians."

Carter's trip angered U.S. and Israeli governments.

"As you know, we counseled him against engaging with Hamas, in keeping with longstanding U.S. policy" of negotiating with terrorists," Casey said.

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