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Obama rushes Mitchell to Middle East

Latest update : 2009-01-26

George Mitchell, the former US Senator recently appointed as Barack Obama's Middle East envoy, is awaited in the region next week, diplomats said Saturday. He is expected to go to Israel and the occupied West Bank.

REUTERS - U.S. President Barack Obama’s special envoy to the Middle East is expected to arrive in the region next week, bringing a quick start to the new administration’s efforts for Israeli-Palestinian peace.


Western diplomats told Reuters on Saturday that former U.S.  Senator George Mitchell would try to shore up a shaky ceasefire in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas. They said Mitchell was expected to make stops in Israel and the occupied West Bank.


Obama has taken the Middle East by surprise with the speed of his diplomatic activism and promises of engagement on Arab-Israeli conflicts.


Critics accused former President George W. Bush of ignoring the conflict for too long and of failing to put his full weight behind any Middle East peace plan.


U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Wood had no comment on Mitchell’s travel plans.


Mitchell, 75 and a Democrat, is best known for peacemaking efforts in Northern Ireland, but he also has experience in the Middle East and was appointed by former President Bill Clinton to find ways to halt Israeli-Palestinian violence.


Mitchell’s 2001 report called for Israelis to freeze construction of new settlements and for Palestinians to crack down on terrorism.


Mitchell is the son of a Lebanese immigrant mother and a father of Irish descent.


When he was appointed by Obama earlier this week, Mitchell said that from his experience working on the Northern Ireland issue, he “formed the conviction that there is no conflict that cannot be ended”.


Date created : 2009-01-24