American presidential candidate Barack Obama told reporters Thursday that he "does not agree" with a decision by former President Jimmy Carter to meet with Hamas arch-terrorist Khaled Mashaal in Damascus next week. However, Obama has previously stated that he would meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad if elected president.
The Democratic US Senator explained to ABC News, "I think that it is entirely legitimate to make distinctions between those who are heads of state, heads of established countries and those who have advocated terrorism," he said.
Ahmadinejad has clearly stated his intent to annihilate the State of Israel and also provides generous funding, advanced training, equipment, weapons and other support to Hamas, Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist organizations that attack Israeli citizens daily.
The Iranian president also announced this week the addition of 6,000 new centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear power plant, bringing the current total to 9,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges working in defiance of a United Nations Security Council ban on the program.
It is believed by the international community that Iran is engaged in developing a nuclear weapon with which Ahmadinejad intends to fulfill his vow to destroy Israel.
Olmert, Livni Rebuff Carter
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni both turned down invitations to meet with Carter when he is in the region, claiming busy schedules, but an Israeli source told the Washington Times, "You draw your own conclusions." Other officials have expressed anger at Carter's meeting with Mashaal. However, President Shimon Peres, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman and Knesset Member Avigdor Lieberman have set meetings with the former president.
The former president, whose recent book compares Israeli policies on the Palestinian Authority with former apartheid policies in South Africa, is scheduled to tour Sderot as well as travel to Ramallah to talk with PA Chairman and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) before heading to Damascus for his meeting with Mashaal.
State Dept 'Counseled' Carter Against Meeting
US State Department officials said Thursday that Carter had planned his meeting in violation of American policy and had been warned not to carry it out.
"US government policy is that Hamas is a terrorist organization and we don't believe it is in the interests of our policy or in the interests of peace to have such a meeting," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack. The spokesman added that US officials had "counseled the former President about having such a meeting."
If Carter does meet with Mashaal, it will not be the first time he has tried to violate US policy regarding Hamas. The former president has offered to mediate ceasefires between Hamas and the rival Fatah terror group, and between Hamas and Israel – despite the fact that US officials are opposed to negotiating with the group.