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French Version

Carter holds talks with Jordan's king on Mideast peace process

Former US President Jimmy Carter briefed Jordan's King Abdullah II on Sunday about Palestinian-Israeli peace moves and his meetings with the militant group Hamas, a Royal Palace official said. During the discussion, Abdullah focused his attention on US-backed talks between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, rather than on any of Carter's dealings with Hamas, with which Jordan has frosty relations, the official said on condition of anonymity.

Jordan has accused Hamas of stockpiling and concealing weapons in the kingdom with the aim of using them to destabilize the pro-Western government.

Carter met with senior Hamas leaders Friday and Saturday in Syria, defying US and Israeli warnings that doing so would lend legitimacy to the group.

Hamas officials said they talked with Carter about an internationally backed Israeli embargo on Gaza and a possible Israel-Hamas prisoner swap. But Hamas did not respond to Carter's requests that it halt rocket fire on Israeli border towns and agree to talk to Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishak about a prisoner exchange.

Abdullah's closed-door talks with Carter on Sunday came as Israel killed seven Hamas militants in a series of air strikes after the group detonated two jeeps packed with hundreds of kilograms of explosives at an Israeli crossing on the Gaza border.

A Royal Palace statement said Abdullah discussed with Carter ways to help "Palestinians and Israelis continue their negotiations on final status issues leading to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state." Abdullah also urged Israel to "abandon its siege [of the Gaza Strip] and settlement expansion," the statement said.

Hamas, meanwhile said Saturday talks in Syria between Carter and Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal focused on a possible truce between Israel and Gaza militants and the release of an Israeli soldier.

Carter and Meshaal held a lengthy meeting Friday, strongly opposed by Washington and Israel which view Hamas as a terrorist organization despite its victory in Palestinian elections in 2006.

Carter, on a Middle East trip to promote peace efforts amid continuing bloodshed, suggested to the Damascus-based Meshaal that his Islamist movement should make some goodwill gestures towards Israel.

The 2002 Nobel Peace prizewinner proposed a truce between Israel and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, "an exchange of prisoners, which would include Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, the lifting of the Israeli blockade of the strip, and a solution to the Rafah terminal," Hamas official Mohammad Nazzal told AFP.

Nazzal said Hamas would respond to Carter "soon."

It would reply positively but "not at any price. The interests of the Palestinian people must be taken into account," he said.

The Jewish state imposed a blockade on Gaza on January 17 in response to rockets fired from Gaza into Israel.

Beirut,05May2008
Redaction
The Daily Star


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