Hamas: Carter visit boosts legitimacy
CAIRO - Hamas officials said yesterday that Jimmy Carter's meetings with leaders of the Palestinian militant group will boost its legitimacy despite criticism by Israel and the US government of the former president's personal peace mission.
Carter arrived in Egypt from Israel and the Palestinian territories, where he raised Israeli anger Tuesday by embracing a Hamas official in the West Bank.
A delegation of senior Hamas officials from the Gaza Strip also came to Cairo, escorted by heavy security, and said Carter planned to meet with them today.
A Carter spokesman refused to comment on Hamas's assertion. After sitting down with Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak and speaking at the American University today, Carter is scheduled to meet in Damascus, Syria, tomorrow with Hamas's top leader, Khaled Mashaal.
Carter, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who brokered Israel's historic peace agreement with Egypt three decades ago, is on what he calls a private peace mission. He contends that the United States, Israel, and other Western states should stop isolating Hamas if they want peace efforts to succeed.
Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since its bloody takeover last June, opposes peace negotiations with Israel and is committed to the Jewish state's destruction. The Islamic militant group has killed some 250 Israelis in suicide bombings and is branded a terror organization by the United States and Israel.