The US State Department said on Thursday it had advised ex-President Jimmy Carter against meeting the leader of Hamas in Syria next week, saying it went against US policy of isolating the group.
Carter has in recent days discussed with the State Department's point person on Israeli-Palestinian issues, David Welch, his plans to meet Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal.
"We have counseled the former president about having such a meeting," said State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack, adding the advice was not to go ahead with such talks.
"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," he told reporters when asked about Carter's plans.
Earlier, Hamas official Ayman Taha told Reuters in Gaza of Carter's planned meeting. "There is an agreement to hold the meeting and arrangements are underway," he said. Taha said the meeting was to be held following a request from the Carter Center in Atlanta, whose goal is to promote global peace, health, democracy and human rights.
The Carter Center had no immediate comment on the former president's trip. Carter, 83, served one term as president between 1977 and 1981. In 2002, he won the Nobel Peace Prize.
McCormack said as a former president, the US government would provide support for Carter's Syrian trip but the State Department would not take part in any of his meetings or the planning and scheduling those talks.
Annan not planning to join
Al-Jazeera Television said the Syria meeting could also include former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and former South African President Nelson Mandela, also a Nobel Peace Prize winner.
But Fred Eckhard, Annan's former spokesman at the United Nations, said Annan had no plans to accompany Carter to Damascus.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke to Annan earlier this week about Hamas, said McCormack, who declined to provide details of the call.
"Secretary Annan is well aware of our position regarding Hamas as he was a former member of the quartet," said McCormack.