Daily Press Briefing

Published: Tue 2 Dec 2008 10:40 AM
Daily Press Briefing
Robert Wood, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
December 1, 2008
Nomination of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State
Questions about Transition Staffing / Confirmation
Secretary Rice’s Travel to India / Schedule / Meetings
Number of American Casualties in Mumbai
U.S. Consulate Working Around the Clock to Assist U.S. Citizens in India
Department of State Activities/Assistance in India
U.S. Work with the UN, EU and others to Deal with Extremism
Need for Coordination and Hard Work to Fight Terrorism
Question about Ethiopian Announcement to Withdraw Troops from Somalia
U.S. Supports African Union Efforts to Shore Up Situation in Somalia
Venezuelan People to Decide Upon Constitutional Amendment Allowing Indefinite Presidential Terms
Similar Amendment Previously Voted Down by Venezuelan People
Chris Hill and Sung Kim’s Travel Plans in Advance of Heads of Delegation Meeting
Discussions Slated with Six-Party Delegations
11:50 a.m. EST
MR. WOOD: Good afternoon, everyone.
QUESTION: It’s still --
MR. WOOD: Good afternoon -- it’s still morning. Yeah, I’m sorry.
QUESTION: Ten more minutes.
MR. WOOD: I wanted to give you all a little time to see the President-elect’s announcement of his national security team. And I also had an internal staff meeting that I had to attend this morning. So I apologize for the lateness, so I’ll go right to your questions.
QUESTION: What does the Department think about Hillary Clinton coming to be a Secretary of State?
MR. WOOD: I mean, it’s – she’ll be a great Secretary of State, let me just say that.
QUESTION: Robert, can you tell us more --
MR. WOOD: Yes.
QUESTION: -- about Secretary Rice’s trip to India, where she’s going to, who she’ll meet with?
MR. WOOD: Well, they’re still working on the schedule. She’ll be meeting with, of course, Indian officials, and she will be there to express condolences of the United States Government and the people of the United States to the Indian Government and the Indian people for the tragedy that took place last week.
And as I said, they’re still working out the schedule, so I don’t have any details in terms of with whom she’ll meeting yet. But we’ll get that to you as soon as we have it.
QUESTION: Is there any prospect that she goes to Mumbai herself?
MR. WOOD: I – at this point, there’s no plan as far as I know.
QUESTION: Is there any prospect of her going to Pakistan?
MR. WOOD: At this point, there are no other travel plans, but we’ll keep you updated if there is a change to her schedule.
QUESTION: Over the course of time, there have been, of course, problems with what are typically called third state actors. These are the terrorists and others. You see the – also the aftermath of this in a government of Somalia, which really hasn’t existed for better than 15 years. Rather than work government to government, is there a plan to put into effect talking to both the UN, EU, and others to put together some type of formalized plan to deal with these third state actors?
MR. WOOD: Well, I mean, this is a discussion that we have quite often with other countries about how we can deal with the terrorist phenomenon around the world. And so we do work with the United Nations. We work with the European Union, with other players to try to see what we can do to stamp out extremism. It’s not easy. It takes a coordinated effort to do this, and we’ll continue to work with them. But I don’t think we have focused, right at this point, on any specific plan. But it’s something that we’re very concerned about, and the events in Mumbai are another example of why we have to all coordinate and work hard together to fight terrorism.
QUESTION: Robert, is there any update on the situation in Mumbai?
MR. WOOD: I don’t have any update. In terms of numbers of dead, I believe that number is six, and two Americans injured. And I should give you a little sense of what our Consulate was doing over the weekend to deal with the tragedy. The Consulate has been working around the clock to monitor injured Americans, help arrange transport or burial of deceased Americans, help evacuated Americans find shelter, issued emergency passports for those who lost them, and provided information and assistance to help Americans depart from India.
Consular officers repeatedly visited hospitals to look for injured Americans. Individual consular officers have been assigned to assist the families of each of the deceased Americans. The Consulate and State Department here in Washington have been on 24/7 operations to assist Americans in Mumbai and concerned loved ones in the U.S. Collectively, we have responded to an estimated 6,000 phone inquiries as of November 29. And so the Department has coordinated assistance with other U.S. Government agencies, such as the FBI, to provide additional and continuing assistance if desired.
QUESTION: Do you know – do you have any idea of the numbers of people who were assisted, the number of Americans who the Consulate was able to – or need – who needed help from the Consulate?
MR. WOOD: I don’t at this point, Matt. But I -- you can imagine that there were a number of Americans that requested assistance and that the Consulate was able to provide assistance for.
QUESTION: And the 6,000 phone inquiries were all to that number that you – to that call center that you established on the --
MR. WOOD: There may have been some to the Consulate as well, and maybe to Embassy – our Embassy in New Delhi. I can’t really – I don’t have that breakdown for you.
QUESTION: They said the number 6,000 was for the 29th? That’s three --
MR. WOOD: Current as of 11/29.
QUESTION: So that’s --
MR. WOOD: There could have --
QUESTION: -- a couple of days since?
MR. WOOD: Yeah, there could have been more. But this is the latest number that we have.
QUESTION: Well, what are you doing in practical terms for people that might be stranded, their belongings are still at the hotel, they’ve got no money, they’ve got no passports? So are you sending them home on flights or are you accommodating them until you can? What are you doing?
MR. WOOD: Well, we’re trying to assist in every way we can. Some have lost passports. We’re trying to provide passports for them. Those who are trying to get out, we’re trying to help facilitate their departure from the country. We’re engaged in a wide range of activities, as we said; also trying to help with removing the deceased and injured Americans back to the United States, should that be where they’re destined. A wide range of activities, so I can’t really give you just a few, but I did give you a sense of what the Consulate was doing, you know, since the crisis broke.
QUESTION: Can you confirm at all, and I understand if you can’t, if the sixth American – was it also someone that was killed at the Jewish center?
MR. WOOD: I can’t confirm that right now. I can just give you the number that we have, which is six.
QUESTION: This is kind of old business, but at the end of last week, Ethiopia announced that it’s pulling its troops out of Somalia. And this isn’t exactly what – I mean, this wouldn’t be a good turn of events given the security situation there, would it?
MR. WOOD: Well, you know, should Ethiopia decide to remove its troops from Somalia, that’s something that, you know, the United States and the international community are going to have to deal with. We’re obviously very concerned about the situation in Somalia. We’re going to do what we can. We’re going to support the African Union efforts to help shore up the situation in Somalia. But beyond that, I don’t have anything further.
QUESTION: Any update on transition activities? How many meetings there are, how many people may be in place already at the State Department?
MR. WOOD: No, I don’t have an update for you on that, Charley. But the meetings have been going on since the transition team arrived. Papers will be prepared as requested and – but nothing further.
QUESTION: How soon do you expect new Secretary of State Clinton to be over here?
MR. WOOD: Oh, I don’t know. I mean, she obviously will have to go through a confirmation process, but no way of knowing at this point. She was just announced a short while ago, so it’s, you know – yes, Dave.
QUESTION: Another one.
MR. WOOD: Yeah.
QUESTION: President Chavez of Venezuela says he’s going to introduce a constitutional amendment that would allow the president of that country to stay in office indefinitely. Any response to that?
MR. WOOD: Well, that’s really going to be a decision left up to the Venezuelan people. I would point out, however, that a similar constitutional amendment was voted down by the Venezuelan people last year, I believe. I think it was December of last year.
Anything else?
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. WOOD: Okay.
QUESTION: Can you just put on the – Chris Hill’s travel plans?
MR. WOOD: Oh, sure. Chris is going to – he’s going to East Asia. He’s going to – he’s going to be in Tokyo, Singapore and Beijing to have discussions with leaders of those countries in advance of the heads of delegation meeting in Beijing on December 8. He’ll be having – he will have discussions with each of the Six Party – other – the five other Six Party delegations, including North Korea. I don’t have a schedule for when or where that session will take place. This, as I said, is normal practice. And Sung Kim will be traveling with him for his meetings. And that’s all I have at the moment on it.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. WOOD: You’re welcome.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. WOOD: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 11:58 a.m.)

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