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Carter meets with political leader of Hamas in Syria

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  • Hamas says five-hour meeting ends late Sunday in Damascus, Syria's capital
  • Carter's appeal for release of Israeli solider captured in 2006 is rejected
  • U.S., Israeli governments criticized previous meetings between Carter, Hamas
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(CNN) -- Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter met Sunday in Damascus, Syria, with Khaled Meshaal, the exiled leader of Hamas' political wing, a Hamas official said.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, left, walks with Jimmy Carter north of Damascus on Sunday, December 14.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, left, walks with Jimmy Carter north of Damascus on Sunday, December 14.

The five-hour meeting ended late Sunday and covered several issues, including Cpl. Gilad Shalit -- an Israeli soldier held captive by Hamas since June 2006, the official said.

Carter previously met with Meshaal in April.

In that meeting, the Hamas leader promised Carter that the group would allow Shalit to send a message to his parents, Noam and Aviva.

Carter also asked Hamas to release Shalit, Meshaal said after the former president's visit, but the request was rejected. Video Watch report on Carter's meeting »

Hamas said Sunday it will soon release a statement about the latest meeting between Carter and Meshaal.

Carter's series of meetings with top Hamas officials in April garnered condemnation from the U.S. and Israeli governments.

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They criticized him for engaging in diplomacy with a group that both governments consider a terrorist organization.

How the incoming Obama administration will receive Carter's meetings with Hamas remains to be seen.

During his visit in Syria, Carter also visited the Saint Taqla convent in the city of Maalula, north of Damascus, with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

CNN's Cal Perry contributed to this report in Beirut, Lebanon.

All About Jimmy CarterGilad ShalitKhaled MeshaalHamasDamascusSyria

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