Hamas leaders to meet Jimmy Carter in Cairo

Other News Materials 16 April 2008 14:31 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - Representatives from Hamas movement left for Cairo Wednesday to meet with former US president Jimmy Carter, a spokesman for the Islamist movement in the Gaza Strip said.

Sami Abu Zuhri said Hamas officials Mahmoud al-Zahar and Said Siam crossed into Egypt through the Rafah border passage.

Carter, on a Middle East tour, said he was refused permission to enter the Hamas-run Gaza Strip while in Israel.

Israel controls the crossings into the strip from its own territory.

Hamas' Palestine newspaper, meanwhile, said Hamas and its leader, Ismail Haniya, whom President Mahmoud Abbas sacked last year from his post of prime minister, were invited to meet the 83-year-old former president and Nobel Peace laureate in Cairo.

The daily said Carter and the Hamas officials would discuss the siege Israel imposed on the Gaza Strip when Hamas gunmen seized control of the salient last year after routing forces loyal to Abbas in five days of bloody fighting.

Carter is also expected to meet exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Damascus on Friday, a meeting which has angered Israel and led to Carter being snubbed by most Israeli leaders while in the Jewish state.

Israel, the US and most Western countries boycott Hamas because of its refusal to change its charter to recognize Israel's right to exist.

The Jerusalem Post daily, quoting unnamed Palestinian Authority (PA) officials, reported Wednesday that the PA also urged Carter not to meet with Mashaal.

Carter met with acting Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on Tuesday.

According to the daily, the officials feel the Carter-Mashaal talks will "legitimize" Hamas' violent takeover of the strip and undermine the authority of Abbas.