US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice criticized former US president Jimmy Carter on Friday for his reported plans to meet the exiled leader of Hamas during a visit to Syria. Carter has not confirmed the plans to meet Khaled Mashaal, but Hamas has said the former Democratic president sent an envoy to Damascus requesting a meeting with the group's officials. "I find it hard to understand what is going to be gained by having discussions with Hamas about peace when Hamas is, in fact, the impediment to peace," Rice said at a press event with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Rice was responding to a question about Carter's plans but did not mention him by name. "Hamas is a terrorist organization," she said, repeating the Bush administration's explanation for why it will not meet with members of the group. The State Department says it twice advised Carter against meeting any representative of Hamas. A Carter-Mashaal meeting would be the first public contact in two years between a prominent American figure and Hamas officials. A press release from the Carter Center said the former president was to lead a study mission to Israel, the West Bank, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Jordan as part of his "ongoing effort to support peace, democracy and human rights in the region." Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for his decades of work in mediating conflicts and his humanitarian travels for the Carter Center since he was in office. One of his mediations was the 1978 Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel, for which Egypt's Anwar Sadat and Israel's Menachem Begin were awarded the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize.