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Tue 21 Jul 2009 08:18 AM

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US Middle East envoy set to return to the region

Israeli-Palestinian talks on George Mitchell's itinerary, plus visit to Bahrain for speech.

US special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell will return to the region at the end of this week, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said on Monday.

"George Mitchell will be traveling to the region later this week," Crowley said during a press briefing. "His itinerary is still not completely set, but he will be traveling to... talk to Israeli officials, Palestinian officials, others in the region."

Crowley said the Middle East envoy would also head to Bahrain to give a speech.

Mitchell's planned visit to Bahrain comes after the country's crown prince Sheikh Salman Bin Hamad Al-Khalifa authored a column in The Washington Post calling on Arab leaders to reach out to the Israeli people by engaging with Israeli media outlets.

That message was applauded by the State Department and Crowley said Mitchell would "have the opportunity to express once again our gratitude to Sheikh Salman for his message last week."

Crowley also confirmed that Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren was brought into the State Department to discuss an Israeli plan to allow construction work in disputed East Jerusalem.

"We've had conversations with the Israeli ambassador on this and other subjects," Crowley said.

The spokesman said Oren met sometime last week with "a number of high-level officials," though not with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

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