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Powell At Indonesian Embassy Signing Condolences

Remarks Outside of Indonesian Embassy After Signing Condolence Book


Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
December 30, 2004

QUESTION: Good morning, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY POWELL: Good morning.

QUESTION: What is the United States doing and what is the world going to do to help in this crisis?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are mobilizing all our assets to help. As you know, we made an initial infusion of money, some $35 million, but we know that this is just the beginning of a much greater need and much more significant commitment from the United States. We have airplanes arriving with aid now. Some six airplanes are landing or in the process of landing and more will follow. U.S. Naval Forces are on the way to the region and will begin arriving next week, and they should be able to provide some additional assistance. Search and rescue teams have left from Los Angeles and from Fairfax County, Virginia, to assist in rescue efforts. We're beefing up our disaster relief teams in the region to make an assessment.

We're also reaching out to all Americans to make a contribution. Americans are a very generous people and we hope that they will go to our websites, state.gov or usaid.gov, and from there they can learn about agencies that are collecting money that will be used for the relief effort. And I encourage all Americans to participate in this relief effort.

The President has made it clear that the United States will do everything we can to assist those nations that have been affected. Sri Lanka and Indonesia are the two nations that are in greatest need. We're also, of course, working with Thailand and other nations that were affected.

The whole international community has to come together on this and, as you know, we formed a core group of nations the other day, as the President announced yesterday. That core group is working. We'll be in a television conference with Kofi Annan at 11 o'clock this morning to make sure that our efforts are coordinated with the United Nations.

This is an unprecedented tragedy. In my many years of government, I've never come across one this large. But these things tend to have a cycle to them. You get the initial reports coming in, you make some preliminary assessments, you start the aid flowing, you start the money flowing, you then send out response teams and assessment teams. And when you get a better understanding of what the needs are and how the countries affected can absorb the relief effort that's heading their way, then you start to fill the pipeline. And that's what we're doing now, with money, with food, with assets. And as the need becomes clearer, you can expect the United States to make more significant contributions in the days, weeks and months ahead.

And it is not just an immediate humanitarian relief effort. It's a rebuilding effort. You saw the destruction that has taken place. Homes have to be rebuilt. Businesses have to be rebuilt. This is the principal responsibility of the governments concerned, but they will need help, and they can be sure that the international community is responding to that need and you can be sure that the United States, at President Bush's direction, will be in the forefront of that response.

QUESTION: Can you tell us how much --

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you wrote a very heart -- it looks like half a page, almost a page, of heartfelt note, and this is your second embassy. What are you writing on behalf of the United States?

SECRETARY POWELL: On behalf of President and Mrs. Bush and the American people, extending sympathy and condolences to the nations involved and the people involved. This is a terrible tragedy. The reports from Indonesia suggest that as many as 45,000 now have been lost. It's rather unprecedented. And so this is the time for us to all join together in solidarity to express our condolences to the families of those who were lost, but also let the people who are in need know that we are coming to assist their governments in helping them and to make sure that we have a coordinated effort with the international community. And so I just wanted to leave a message of sympathy and a message of solidarity.

QUESTION: Can you tell us -- Voice of America Indonesia Service. Can you tell us how much of relief is going to Indonesia?

SECRETARY POWELL: Right now I cannot give you a breakdown because so many relief organizations are on the move. And what we have to do is make sure that there's a good assessment from the country. We need the countries to tell us what they need and where they want the resources applied. And so that's why we have dispatched our disaster assistance relief teams to make those assessments, working with the country. There's nothing worse than sending resources to the wrong place. It costs money to move equipment, to move supplies. We want to make sure we're moving these things to the right place, and it takes a little bit of time.

But this disaster struck last Saturday night. The very next morning, the United States had task forces established and set up, and by Monday morning we were beginning to allocate money to the relief effort, and by Tuesday afternoon we had allocated for the separate $35 million and we had set up a core group to work on relief. And as the President said when he spoke to the world yesterday, we would do more to make sure that everybody understands that America is a compassionate nation, a generous nation that can always be counted on during this time of crisis and tragedy.

And so we are hard at work with my colleagues in the Pentagon, my colleagues in the U.S. Agency for International Development. Everyone else in the United States Government who has a role to play, is being pulled together in the task force under Under Secretary of State Marc Grossman. We're working very well together and you will see a significant step-up in the flow of aid.

And I also will be in touch with members of Congress over the next several days to alert them to what the needs may be as we move further down the road, not just for humanitarian relief but for the rebuilding and reconstruction effort that has to follow.

QUESTION: Congress will have to appropriate funds?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, that's what we have to look at. There are just so many funds that are immediately available to me or to the Administrator of AID. When something like this comes along, we very often have to take the money from other accounts in order to deal with the immediate problem, and then we have to determine how to replenish those accounts. And so this is part of the process of determining where the resources are coming from. And if more resources are needed, then we work with the Office of Management and Budget, and ultimately it's something that the Congress has to be involved in.

In this case, because I think the need will be so great, obviously I think the Congress will have a role to play. But that remains to be determined. Right now, get the aid flowing, get the assistance teams in, make a good assessment, work with the countries, work with the international community, and come up with a good statement of the need so that we can apply the resources to that need and not waste resources.

And once again, I'm so pleased that the response we see from the American people with respect to private donations. Just to single out one, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, recognizing it's a pharmaceutical company, they decided to give money because money is fungible and money can be used, money can be sent to one of the humanitarian organizations that knows exactly what is needed and purchase the right response to that need, purchase the right equipment or food or whatever might be needed. As opposed to shipping commodities over, ship the money to the agencies and let them spend the money in the best possible way and apply the money where the need is greatest.

Thank you. 2004/1416 [End]

Released on December 30, 2004

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