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Carter Meets Hamas Leader Meshaal

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter met with exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal again Saturday in Syria, despite objections from both Israel and the United States.

Mr. Carter did not comment after his talks with Meshaal on Friday night and Saturday morning in Damascus.

A Hamas official, Mohammad Nazzal, told reporters Mr. Carter proposed a cease-fire between Israeli forces and Hamas fighters, a prisoner exchange, and the lifting of Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The official said Hamas would respond soon.

Israel and the United States have criticized Mr. Carter for agreeing to meet with leaders of Hamas, which both countries consider a terrorist group.

Israeli spokesman Mark Regev stressed Saturday that Hamas is not a partner in peace.

But Mr. Carter says peace in Israel is impossible without engaging Hamas. The militant group won parliamentary elections in January 2006.

Mr. Carter mediated the 1978 Camp David Accords, which paved the way for peace between Israel and Egypt. He has taken positions critical of Israel in recent years. In a 2006 book, he described Israeli policies in the Palestinian territories as a "system of apartheid."

On Friday, Egypt's foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, acknowledged that Egypt is quietly mediating talks between Israel and Hamas. He said the parties involved are "making good progress."

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.