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With Obama, what change for Mideast?

On Thursday he named George Mitchell as a special envoy, and he has already signaled that the US will reengage the region.

Obama's diplomacy team: Leading the charge will be Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (c.), who started her new job Thursday, Jan. 22. Joining her will be Richard Holbrooke (far left) and former Sen. George Mitchell (far right) as special envoys to Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the Middle East, respectively.

Charles Dharapak/AP

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President Obama has lost little time upon taking office in keeping a campaign promise to ramp up US diplomacy, especially in the Middle East.

On Thursday, he joined Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Vice President Joseph Biden, and his national security advisers at lunch at the State Department to discuss ways of implementing “the administration’s pledge to enhance diplomatic efforts to advance American interests,” the White House said.

The meeting also served as the venue for naming two special envoys: former Senate Democratic leader George Mitchell for the Middle East and former ambassador Richard Holbrooke for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Perhaps the key question now is whether reinvigorated American diplomacy will find the partners in the Middle East it needs to move forward such daunting challenges as Arab-Israeli peace and Palestinian statehood.


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