Obama names envoys for Mideast, Afghanistan

President Barack Obama named special envoys on Thursday for Middle East and the Afghanistan-Pakistan region and promised U.S. help in ensuring a "lasting truce" in Gaza.

Obama names envoys for Mideast, Afghanistan

Obama chose former Sen. George Mitchell as an envoy who will try to jump-start "dead Arab-Israeli talks.

Obama also tapped former ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke to be the first-ever special U.S. envoy for Afghanistan, Pakistan and related issues.

Both the envoys have records of success in helping deals -Mitchell in Northern Ireland and Holbrooke in the Balkans.

"We have no time to lose," said Obama, who introduced Mitchell and Holbrooke at an event with newly confirmed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Mitchell will go to the Middle East to help ensure the durability of the ceasefire in Gaza, which was left devastated by a 22-day Israeli offensive.

"It will be the policy of my administration to actively and aggressively seek a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as Israel and its Arab neighbors," Obama said.

No direct mention of Iran

In discussing the Mideast issues, neither Obama nor Clinton mentioned Iran.

Obama said during the campaign he favored high-level engagement with Iran but since the election he has given no details on when that effort might start.

Pressed on Iran during a briefing, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs reiterated that Obama believes "We're going to have to engage our friends and our enemies in order to make our country safe and secure."

Clinton said the United States had to restore its standing in the world. "We must be smarter about how we exercise our power," she said.

Obama has ordered a full review of the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, and told generals to take the first steps toward a pledge to withdraw troops from Iraq.

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.

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

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."

Holbrooke, 67, said he had been given a "daunting assignment."

Holbrooke gained prominence by brokering the Dayton peace accords that ended the war in Bosnia.

Nabil Abu Rdainah, aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said he hoped the appointment of the new Mideast envoy would signal a shift in the U.S. approach toward the Arab-Israeli conflict.

"We will deal with Obama's envoy and we hope he will work fast to implement the road map and the Arab peace initiative as well as international agreements and to implement Obama's change policy in order to bring justice and freedom to our people," he said.


Reuters

Last Mod: 23 Ocak 2009, 11:43
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