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Hamas must be given role in peace efforts, Carter says

Associated Press / October 20, 2010

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DAMASCUS — Jimmy Carter said yesterday that Palestinians are “living in a cage’’ in Gaza and that the militant group Hamas must be included in all major efforts for peace.

The former president was in Syria with an international group of veteran statesmen known as the Elders, which includes Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland.

“We believe that Hamas should be included in all the major efforts to peace. . . . It is part of the Palestinian people,’’ Carter said. He added that “1.5 million Palestinians are held in a cage or prison while their human rights are taken away.’’

Israel imposed its blockade of Gaza, a densely populated coastal strip along Israel’s southwest border, following Hamas’s violent takeover in June 2007. The rival Palestinian faction Fatah, led by the Western-backed Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, controls the West Bank.

Carter’s made his remarks as reconciliation talks between the two Palestinian factions were postponed yesterday.

Hamas did not give a reason for the postponement but said in a statement that Fatah officials have said they will not attend talks slated for today.

A Fatah official said they had suggested to Hamas that the talks be held in Lebanon, but the rivals insisted on Damascus.

During a meeting in Syria last month, the factions announced they have agreed on steps to reconcile and they scheduled a meeting for this week in Damascus.

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