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Carter: I’ve spoken to Obama, Mitchell

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Jimmy Carter says he has spoken with President Obama and his Middle East peace envoy since Obama assumed office.

"I’ve had two conversations with President Obama and I’ve had two conversations with George Mitchell, even since he was chosen," Carter told National Public Radio in an interview Tuesday promoting his new book, "We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land: A Plan That Will Work. "And I think that they will obviously get advice and counsel and information from many other sources."

Obama named Mitchell, a former U.S. senator from Maine, to be his envoy to Israeli-Palestinian peace talks last week.

A source close to the White House said Carter might have been referring to routine conversations with Obama, for instance, during the inauguration, when all the former presidents are gathered together. Obama was not actively soliciting Carter’s advice on the Middle East, the source said.

State Department spokesmen were not immediately available for comment about conversations with Mitchell.

During the 2008 campaign, Democrats sought to distance themselves from the former president and broker of the 1978 Egypt-Israel peace accords. Carter had angered U.S. Jewish groups with his 2006 book, "Palestine: Peace not Apartheid," which likened Israel’s settlement practices to apartheid and accused the pro-Israel lobby of intimidating its critics. He made an appearance at the Democratic convention but was not allowed to speak.

Carter’s latest book is less confrontational and more prescriptive. It counsels dealings with Hamas, a terrorist group, but is mindful of Israeli concerns about maintaining Israel’s Jewish character.

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