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President Obama Prioritizes Middle East Peace

President Barack Obama pledged on Monday that his new Middle East envoy George Mitchell would engage “vigorously and consistently” in the quest for Israeli-Palestinian peace and would seek concrete results.

“The cause of peace in the Middle East is important to the United States and our national interests. It’s important to me personally,” Obama, who has made Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy a high priority for his new administration, told reporters while meeting with Mitchell and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Mitchell was scheduled to leave for the Middle East later Monday. Obama said he was dispatching Mitchell fully aware that there would be no overnight success, but with greater hope for progress in establishing an Israeli-Palestinian peace because the administration was engaging in an early fashion.

“Sen. Mitchell is fully empowered by me and Secretary Clinton,” Obama said during a brief photo opportunity before the meeting began. “When he speaks, he speaks for us.”

Earlier Monday, U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Wood held a briefing ahead of Mitchell’s trip, telling reporters that the new Mideast envoy did not intend to visit Syria, nor did he plan to speak with Hamas during his first mission. Rather, he planned to listen to regional leaders and assess the situation.

Mitchell was scheduled to land in Cairo Monday night and hold some meetings on Tuesday; he was then scheduled to continue to Tel-Aviv and then the West Bank city of Ramallah for two days. From there, he was to continue to Amman and Riyadh.

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