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James Wolfensohn, the Quartet's special envoy on the disengagement, has announced that he will be stepping down in April and closing his office unless his mandate is revised.

Wolfensohn's mission expires at the end of this month, but he agreed to stay on another few weeks in order to prevent any jolts right before the Israeli elections. Until now, he has engaged primarily in issues related to Israel's pullout from the Gaza Strip.

Wolfensohn, who arrived in the region on Thursday, apprised Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas of his decision, as well as the heads of the security establishment in Israel. The former World Bank president explained that he sees no point in continuing the assignment he took up last May, so long as the Quartet and donor countries have not formed a clear policy in keeping with the political situation in the territories.

A senior official in Jerusalem told Haaretz that Wolfensohn had angered American Jewish activists with criticism of Israel's policy and those activists exerted pressure on the Bush administration not to extend Wolfensohn's mandate.