Carter, Hamas' Mashaal, discuss ceasefire, blockade
Defying Washington's objections, former US president Jimmy Carter Friday held
talks with Hamas' senior leader Khaled Mashaal in Damascus, with discussions of
a Gaza ceasefire and Israel's blockade on the Gaza Strip.
According to a Hamas website monitored in the Gaza Strip, Carter and Mashaal also were to discuss the fate of the abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
The report cited Mashaal's deputy, Musa Abu Mrazoque, who talked to reporters in Syria. Mashaal is the senior leader of the Palestinian Islamic movement Hamas.
Earlier, Carter met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The US Bush administration said earlier this week it opposes Carters' plan to meet with the Hamas leader. Washington lists Hamas as a terrorist organization and refuses to hold discussions with the militant group in the peace process.
Israel also regards Hamas as a terrorist group that has launched repeated rocket attacks into Israel.
Earlier, Palestinian sources close to Hamas said the issue of abducted Israeli soldier Shalit and suggestions to lift the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip were the kernel of the Carter- Mashaal meeting.
Carter was to have met with Mashaal in his house in Damascus, and no media coverage was to be allowed during the Carter-Mashaal talks.
A Carter delegation spokesman told dpa that the former US president will not announce the results of his meetings before next Monday.
In June 2006, Hamas captured Shalit during an attack on an Israeli army location near the border with Egypt.
Despite intense efforts to release him, Shalit has been held by Hamas for more than one year.
After finishing his one-day trip in Syria, Carter is heading to Saudi Arabia to meet King Abdullah and the Saudi foreign minister.
The White House has dismissed any connection to the meetings, saying that Carter "is not representing the United States" in the meeting.