DAMASCUS - Former president Jimmy Carter will meet the exiled leader of the militant Palestinian group Hamas during a visit to Syria next week, a senior Hamas official said yesterday. The Atlanta-based Carter Center did not confirm the meeting.
The senior Hamas official in Syria said that Carter sent an envoy to Damascus earlier, requesting a meeting with the militant group's officials, including exiled leader Khaled Mashaal.
Hamas "welcomed the request," said Mohammed Nazzal, who said the meeting would take place April 18.
Carter Center spokeswoman Deanna Congileo confirmed that Carter planned a trip to the Middle East at the end of the week but could not "confirm any specifics."
A press release from the center said the former president, a Democrat, 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."
The statement said the visit would take place from Sunday until April 21.
"This is a study mission, and our purpose is not to negotiate, but to support and provide momentum for current efforts to secure peace in the Middle East," Carter said in the statement. "Our delegation has considerable experience in the region, and we go there with an open mind and heart to listen and learn from all parties."