'US told Carter not to talk to Hamas'

Rice: White House explicitly said meeting wouldn't help peace efforts; Israel: Carter's mission failed.

Rice 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Rice 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The Bush administration explicitly warned former US President Jimmy Carter against meeting with members of Hamas, said US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Tuesday. Attending a regional meeting on Iraq's security and future, Rice contradicted Carter's assertions that he never got a clear signal from the State Department. Rice told reporters that the US thought the visit could confuse the message that the US will not deal with Hamas. "I just don't want there to be any confusion," Rice said. "The United States is not going to deal with Hamas and we had certainly told President Carter that we did not think meeting with Hamas was going to help" further a political settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. In an interview with NPR, Carter said the State Department did not warn him off the trip. A State Department spokesman in Washington took issue with that on Monday, and Rice was blunter in her account Tuesday. Rice had heard questions about Carter's meetings several times during two days of Iraq-themed meetings in the Mideast, with some diplomats wondering whether the Bush administration was talking to Hamas through the back door, or contemplating a different policy in the future. Rice confirmed that US policy remains that it will deal only with the elected Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, and his West Bank-based government as it tried to help Israel and the Palestinians broker terms for an independent Palestinian state. Also criticizing the former US President's private mission, head of the Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Security Bureau Amos Gilad said Tuesday that the attempt to work out a ceasefire with Hamas has failed. He said that Hamas presented nothing new in its demands for a truce during Carter's recent meetings with officials from the terror group. In a last-ditch effort from Jerusalem, Carter had called exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Damascus on Monday to get him to agree to a one-month truce without conditions. However Mashaal rejected the idea. The two met for more than seven hours over the weekend. Gilad told Army Radio Tuesday that Mashaal had not budged in his demands, and thus the Carter mission failed. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert refused to meet Carter. However, Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai met with the former US president twice during his visit to the region, despite much criticism.