Jimmy Carter met a Hamas delegation from the Gaza Strip in Cairo on Thursday after Israel barred the former US president from visiting the coastal territory. The delegation, which includes senior leaders Dr. Mahmud Zahar and Said Siam and four others, went into the meeting with Carter at a Cairo hotel amid heavy security, AFP reported.
Ahead of the talks, Hamas official in Cairo Ibrahim al-Darrawy said that Carter "is well disposed and we need that." Carter had lunch with President Hosni Mubarak before the meeting.
The Hamas delegation, which drove to Cairo from the Rafah border crossing on Wednesday, "will inform Carter about the situation in the Gaza Strip and tell him that Hamas is a national liberation movement," Darrawy told AFP. On his arrival in Egypt, Zahar hailed the upcoming talks.
"President Carter can break all the Israeli restraints that they want to place between him and Hamas and so we and our brothers in Damascus are determined to meet with him," he said.
The former president is expected to meet exiled Hamas political chief Khaled Meshaal in Damascus on Friday.
The Hamas delegation is also due to meet Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman to discuss a possible ceasefire with Israel, reopening the Rafah crossing, and the fate of an Israeli soldier captured by Hamas in 2006.
Israeli political leaders snubbed Carter over his plans to talk with Hamas.
After two days in Egypt, Carter is due to travel to Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.