Yoav Stern
February 24, 2009 - 1:00am

The United States is planning to open a permanent office in Jerusalem for its special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, the pan-Arab newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat reported Tuesday.

Mitchell has been tasked with advancing stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. He is set to make his second visit to Israel in his current capacity in the last week of February.

Last week, Mitchell told the heads of several U.S. Jewish groups that while the issue of Israeli settlements comes up in every conversation with Arab leaders, "it is not the only issue."

A U.S. official said on Monday, meanwhile, Washington plans to pledge more than $900 million to help rebuild Gaza after Israel's offensive against Hamas and strengthen the Palestinian Authority.

The money will be channeled through United Nations and other bodies and will not be distributed via the militant group Hamas, which rules Gaza, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton plans to make the announcement next week at a Gaza donors conference in Egypt.


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