President Carter: White House ‘Ordered’ Me To Not Go To Syria

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"President Carter: White House ‘Ordered’ Me To Not Go To Syria"

Recently, the White House has launched partisan attacks against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for taking a trip to Syria, while refusing to criticize similar Republican delegations.

Yesterday, former President Jimmy Carter revealed that he was barred from visiting Syria last year when he was abroad monitoring the Palestinian elections: “I have known President Bashar al-Assad since he was a college student, and I thought it might be helpful if I went and urged him to support the peace process in the Middle East. But for the only time in my life as a former president, I was ordered by the White House not to go.” Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/04/cartersyria.320.240.flv]

Carter, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, also praised Pelosi’s trip, stating, “It’s long overdue, as a matter of fact.” He added, “When there is a crisis, the best way to help resolve the crisis is to deal with the people who are instrumental in the problem.”

Transcript:

QUESTION: Speaker Pelosi’s visit with President Assad today, her expressing concerns about Hamas, Hezbollah, her expressing concerns about foreign fighters crossing into Iraq from Syria, her relaying of a message from Israel to Syria about the desire to open peace talks — do you believe she’s being, essentially, a more effective emissary to the Middle East than Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice?

CARTER: Well, I wouldn’t want to compare the two women, no. But I was very pleased when I learned that the speaker would go to Syria. It’s long overdue, as a matter of fact. And I wrote, as I wrote in a book that I published that was published last year, I was scheduled to go to Syria on the same trip as to monitor one of the Palestinian elections because I have known President Bashar al-Assad since he was a college student, and I thought it might be helpful if I went and urged him to support the peace process in the Middle East.

But for the only time in my life as a former president, I was ordered by the White House not to go.

CARTER: I know that earlier, other members of Congress have gone, both Democrats and Republicans. And I was glad that she went.

But it’s very good to have the United States reach out to Syria, to see if they won’t be more accommodating because we still have to resolve the question of the Golan Heights. And I think that Syria can be quite helpful in assuaging the negative tendencies of Hamas. And certainly they have some influence that could be beneficial in Hezbollah. So, yes, I’m glad she went.

QUESTION: To clarify, you were asked by the White House not to go on this particular trip?

CARTER: No, when I was going to go there as part of my monitoring an earlier Palestinian election.

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