JACKSON, Miss. (AP) _ Ray Mabus, the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, will resign the post he has held for two years and return to Mississippi to work in his family's timber business, he said Saturday.

Mabus, 47, was tapped by President Clinton in February 1994 to serve the United States in the oil-rich Middle East country.

``When I accepted this job, the president and I talked about how long I would stay and we agreed I'd stay about two years. It's been about that long,'' Mabus told The Associated Press.

Mabus said he would return to Mississippi by May 1. He described his stint in Saudi Arabia as ``intense and interesting.''

During his tenure, Mabus said, more than $16 billion in new business contracts were signed for U.S. firms, which translated into about 300,000 Americans being put to work.

In Washington, President Clinton commended Mabus for ``a superb job.''

``He has worked tirelessly to solve problems, create economic opportunities for American businesses, and enhance relations. I am personally grateful for his valued contribution,'' Clinton said in a statement.

Mabus has lived since July 1994 in the Saudi capital city of Riyadh.

Mabus, who was Mississippi's Democratic governor from 1988 to 1992 and state auditor from 1984 to 1988, said he has no immediate plans to return to politics. He said he will concentrate on his family's Choctaw County business.