US officials to Obama: Talk to Hamas

Top economic adviser, former officials say attempt must be made to coax group to renounce violence.

Barack Obama 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Barack Obama 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
A top economic adviser to US President Barack Obama, along with nine former senior officials, is calling on the American leader to open dialogue with Hamas, The Boston Globe reported Saturday. According to the report, Paul A. Volcker and other members of the bipartisan group - including former national security advisers Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski - have sent a letter to Obama urging him to engage Hamas in order to coax the terrorist organization to disarm and join a peaceful Palestinian unity government. The letter was reportedly handed to Obama days before he took office. Another member of the group, US/Middle East Project President Henry Siegman, said the White House has promised to allow the group to make its case before Obama. "I see no reason not to talk to Hamas," Scowcroft said. "The main gist is that you need to push hard on the Palestinian peace process," he added. "Don't move it to the end of your agenda and say you have too much to do. And the US needs to have a position, not just hold their coats while they sit down." Other members of the group are former Republican senators Chuck Hagel and Nancy Kassebaum Baker, former House International Relations Committee chairman Lee Hamilton, former World Bank president James Wolfensohn, former United Nations ambassador Thomas Pickering, former US trade representative Carla Hills and former special counsel to President John F. Kennedy Theodore Sorensen. The report is not the first instance of cracks appearing in the international boycott of local terror organizations. Britain recently announced that it would hold discussions with Hizbullah's political wing. Bill Rammell, the UK Foreign Office minister for the Middle East, told the British Parliament earlier this month that the decision was made "in the light of more positive developments in Lebanon, and the formation of the national unity government in which Hizbullah is participating." "Our over-riding objective is to press Hizbullah to play a more constructive role and move away from violence," he said. The British move has been roundly condemned in Jerusalem. Herb Keinon contributed to this report.