US official: US Mideast envoy Mitchell set to resign

White House will reportedly make official announcement later in the day; Obama sets a date for his speech outlining new Mideast policy.

Netanyahu and George Mitchell 521 (photo credit: marc israel sellem)
Netanyahu and George Mitchell 521
(photo credit: marc israel sellem)
WASHINGTON - US Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell, who has led the Obama administration's failed effort to restart direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, plans to resign on Friday, a US official said.
Mitchell's departure comes ahead of US President Barack Obama's expected speech laying out his new Middle East strategy and a visit to the White House by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on May 20.
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The White House of Friday said that Obama would deliver the speech on Thursday.
Obama, who has enjoyed a boost in his standing at home and abroad with the death of the al-Qaida chief last week, is also expected to use his address to talk about US hopes for advancing long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Mitchell's resignation would be announced by the White House later on Friday.
Mitchell, 77, a former US senator who helped broker the Northern Ireland peace deal, was one of the first members of Obama's foreign policy team to be announced and has shuttled extensively between Washington and Middle East capitals trying to set up new negotiations.
Direct peace talks resumed briefly last year but broke down over settlement construction in the West Bank.
Faced with a deadlock, the United States in December scrapped efforts to relaunch direct peace talks and Mitchell has not visited the region since then.
Obama has recently made changes to his Middle East policy team and named Daniel Shapiro, a senior adviser who has helped shape the response to the Middle East upheaval, as his nominee to be the new US ambassador to Israel.