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Mideast Peace Envoy George Mitchell Resigning

George Mitchell (L) speaks with a Palestinian Authority member during a 2009 meeting between President Obama and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)(WASHINGTON) -- Former Sen. George Mitchell is stepping down as U.S. special envoy for Mideast peace, according to an administration official. The White House was expected to announce Mitchell’s departure Friday. The official said Mitchell is leaving for “personal reasons.”

His resignation comes just a week before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to visit Washington and is expected to present new ideas on how to break jammed negotiations with the Palestinians. The process hit a new snag in recent weeks when the Palestinian Authority struck a deal with rival Hamas, which has refused to renounce violence against Israel.

After 18 months of shuttle diplomacy by Mitchell and others, the Obama administration finally launched talks between Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas in early September and pledged to have a framework deal within a year. Just weeks later the talks fell apart over a dispute about settlements in the West Bank, and months later the administration abandoned the effort but maintained it could get some sort of agreement within that same year timeline.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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