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White House hopeful Barack Obama on Sunday criticized both U.S. President George W. Bush and former President Bill Clinton for waiting too long to make a big push to achieve Middle East peace.

Obama, a Democratic senator from Illinois, said he would pursue an active diplomacy from the beginning to try to reach a peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians.

Campaigning in Reading, Pennsylvania, Obama was asked his view on former President Jimmy Carter's meetings with leaders of the Islamist Palestinian group Hamas during a trip to the Middle East that began a week ago.

"I actually disagree with him on his meeting with Hamas," Obama said.

Obama is vying with former first lady Sen. Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination and the right to run against Republican Sen. John McCain in the November presidential election.

"On the other hand, what I also disagree with is a habit of American presidents which is every president in their last year, they finally decide, we're going to try to broker a peace deal," Obama added. "Bill Clinton did it in his last year and he ran out of time. George Bush tried to do it."

The peace conference launched in Annapolis, Maryland, in November marked a shift for Republican Bush, who previously had avoided a hands-on role in Middle East peace negotiations.