Former President Jimmy Carter blamed U.S. policy in the Middle East for creating animosity abroad, but he stopped short of taking a stand on war with Iraq.

He said published reports that he had signed a petition opposing war were wrong.

Carter, 78, spoke Thursday at a private meeting with 300 donors to raise money for his Georgia-based Carter Center, which promotes peace, democracy and world health.

The former president, who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year, has refused requests for comment since Secretary of State Colin Powell brought the U.S. case against Saddam Hussein to the U.N. Security Council two weeks ago.

Carter did not comment Thursday on Powell's recent address, but he did have great praise for the secretary of state.

"Colin Powell is caught in difficult circumstances," Carter said. "I'm glad he's there."

In his most recent statement about Iraq, issued Jan. 31, he said "any belligerent move by Saddam against a neighbor would be suicidal" with the country under intense monitoring from satellite surveillance and the U.N. inspection team.

"If Iraq does possess concealed weapons, as is quite likely, Saddam would use them only in the most extreme circumstances, in the face of an invasion of Iraq, when all hope of avoiding the destruction of his regime is lost."

Carter also noted that the United States is a major world supplier of weapons and ammunition, but less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the nation's wealth goes to help the world's poor. He said that's the lowest percentage of any developed nation.

Carter became the third president to win the Nobel Peace Prize, when he was honored in October for his efforts in negotiating solutions to conflicts worldwide.

President Theodore Roosevelt got his for negotiating the end of the Russo-Japanese War in 1905 and President Wilson for his role in the 1919 Versailles Conference after World War I.

While in the White House, Carter helped secure the 1978 Camp David accords for peace between Israel and Egypt. He has since promoted human rights and recently criticized U.S. leaders' "pre-eminent obsession" with Iraq while not pressing for resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or pressuring North Korea to stop developing nuclear bombs.