Mitchell headed back to Mideast soon

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said special Middle East envoy George Mitchell will be returning to the region before the end of the month.

In a news conference at the U.S. State Department, Clinton said she and Mitchell discussed "how we can better mobilize humanitarian relief to the people of Gaza with the various parties in the Middle East." Clinton stressed that the United States is "engaged" in working to "solve the problems that are obviously afflicting that region."

She reiterated that U.S. conditions for talking to Hamas "have not and will not change." Clinton said Hamas must renounce violence, recognize Israel and agree to abide by prior agreements that were entered into by the Palestinian Authority — the same conditions she laid out at her Senate confirmation hearing last month.

Mitchell told reporters that after his first visit to the Middle East, his "original assessment" still holds — that with patient, determined and perservering diplomacy," peace and security can be achieved in the region.

Clinton at the news conference praised Egypt for its "leadership role" in working toward a cease-fire in Gaza.

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