WASHINGTON -- President-elect Barack Obama will plunge into foreign policy on his first full day in office Wednesday.
As one of his first actions, Obama plans to name former Sen. George Mitchell, D-Maine, as his Mideast envoy, aides said, sending a signal that the new administration intends to move quickly to engage warring Israelis and Palestinians in efforts to secure the peace.
Mitchell's appointment will follow this afternoon's expected Senate vote to confirm Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., as secretary of state. And Wednesday afternoon, aides said, Obama will convene a meeting of his National Security Council to launch a reassessment of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
By the end of the week, Obama plans to issue an executive order to eventually shut the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and to lay out a new process for dealing with about 250 detainees remaining at the prison.
Aides said Obama also plans to lift a rule that prevents federal money from going to international family planning groups that counsel women on abortion or perform the procedure.
Called the "Mexico City policy," the rule prohibiting federal aid for such groups was announced by President Ronald Reagan during a population conference in that city in 1984. Critics call it the "global gag rule" because it discourages family planning groups from discussing abortion.
Since its implementation the policy has been alternately revoked and re-instituted, depending on the party controlling the White House.
Bill Clinton rescinded the policy on Jan. 22, 1993, two days after he was sworn in and on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade.
George W. Bush re-imposed the rule eight years later, also on the Roe vs. Wade anniversary.
Obama also is considering lifting Bush administration restrictions on federally funded stem cell research.
Following his noon inauguration today, Obama will spend a brief time at the White House before heading to a series of dinners and inaugural balls. Aides said the work of being president will begin in earnest Wednesday morning.
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