Friday, April 18, 2008

In praise of ... Jimmy Carter

The Guardian, Friday April 18 2008

Like the Kennedy Library in Boston, where Gordon Brown makes the main foreign policy speech of his US visit today, most American presidential libraries are monuments to the past. The Carter Centre, near Atlanta, is totally different. Like its begetter, Jimmy Carter, it is focused on the future. The centre thrums with constant activity. Its slogan, "Waging peace, fighting disease, building hope" sums up the work of the most active ex-president the US has ever seen. Mr Carter, now 83, has spent the last quarter-century on a punishing round of conflict resolution, monitoring foreign elections and running medical and other aid programmes in Africa. In 2002 his work won the Nobel peace prize. Six years on there is no letup. Last week Mr Carter was in Nepal for the elections. This week he is in the Middle East on a peace mission. He met a Hamas delegation from Gaza in Cairo yesterday. Today he moves on to Syria for more talks. These meetings, amid so much recent bloodshed in Gaza, have raised the wrath of the Israeli political establishment against Mr Carter. And not just the Israeli establishment. Back in the US there have been calls for funding to the Carter Centre to be cut off, while Barack Obama has been forced to say he will not meet Hamas if he becomes president. But Mr Carter is undeterred - and rightly so. He says Middle East peace will eventually require talks with Syria and talks with Hamas. That is no more than the truth. Today would be a good day for Mr Brown to say the same thing.
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