- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 20, 2008

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Former President Carter briefed Jordan’s king yesterday on his controversial talks with the exiled militant Hamas leader, a Royal Palace official said.

But King Abdullah II chose to focus their meeting on the faltering Israeli-Palestinian peace process rather than Carter’s dealings with Hamas, which has frosty relations with Jordan, said the official on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Carter held talks with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal and his deputy in Syria on Friday and yesterday— defying U.S. and Israeli warnings that doing so would lend legitimacy to the group, responsible for suicide bombings and other attacks that have killed some 250 Israelis.

Jordan also accuses Hamas of stockpiling and concealing weapons in the kingdom with the intention of using them to destabilize the pro-U.S. government.

Hamas officials said they talked with Carter about an internationally backed Israeli embargo on Gaza and a possible Israel-Hamas prisoner swap.

Carter, who brokered the 1978 Israeli-Egyptian peace, is trying to secure the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. But Hamas has said Shalit would “not see the light” until Palestinian prisoners are also released in an exchange.

Hamas also did not respond to Carter’s requests that it halt rocket fire on Israeli border towns and agree to talk to Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishak about a prisoner exchange.

Abdullah’s closed-door talks with Carter came as Israel killed seven Hamas militants in a series of air strikes after the group detonated two jeeps packed with hundreds of kilograms of explosives at an Israeli crossing on the Gaza border.

It was not immediately known what Carter said to Abdullah about his talks with Mashaal. Carter, who has said he is on a personal peace mission, has not publicly commented since being in Syria.

According to a statement released by the Royal Palace, Abdullah discussed with Carter ways to help “Palestinians and Israelis continue their negotiations on final status issues leading to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.”

The king also urged Israel to “abandon its siege (of the Gaza Strip) and settlement expansion,” the statement said.

Carter will be in Jerusalem tomorrow for the final stop on his Mideast tour.

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