Page last updated at 14:32 GMT, Monday, 14 April 2008 15:32 UK

Carter: Sderot attacks criminal

Former US President Jimmy Carter in Sderot
Carter is a controversial figure in Israel for comparing the occupation to apartheid

Former US President Jimmy Carter has visited the southern Israeli town of Sderot - the target of thousands of rockets fired by Palestinian militants.

Mr Carter said such attacks were a despicable crime.

On Sunday, Mr Carter met the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, who has a largely ceremonial role. He has not met other senior Israeli leaders.

Correspondents say Mr Carter is being snubbed because he plans to meet Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal.

Mr Carter is a controversial figure in Israel. He has previously characterised Israeli policy in the Palestinian territories as a system of apartheid.

In Sderot, Mr Carter was shown a display of stacks of rockets that had fallen on or near the town.

"I'm obviously distressed to see this happen… I think it's a despicable crime for any deliberate effort to be made to kill innocent civilians. My hope is that there will be a ceasefire soon that will stop all this," Mr Carter said.

Peace efforts

Thirteen people have been killed by rockets fired from Gaza in the last seven years. Many have been injured and large numbers of people have fled the town.

Mr Carter is on a tour of the region, taking in the West Bank, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.

Israel, the US and the European Union consider the Islamist militant movement Hamas a terrorist organisation, refuse to deal with it directly and all pursue policies to isolate it.

Mr Carter brokered the 1979 Egypt-Israel peace treaty, the first in between Israel and an Arab state.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for "decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development".

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