Rice to visit India on Wednesday, White House says

Sun Nov 30, 2008 9:05pm EST
 
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By Jeremy Pelofsky and Sue Pleming

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will travel to India on Wednesday at the request of President George W. Bush in the wake of the Mumbai attacks, the White House said on Sunday.

"Secretary Rice's visit to India is a further demonstration of the United States' commitment to stand in solidarity with the people of India as we all work together to hold these extremists accountable," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said in a statement.

Rice will arrive in New Delhi on Wednesday after attending a NATO meeting on Tuesday, according to the White House.

She has been in contact with the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan in recent days to ease tensions between the nuclear states, and this is expected to be a dominant theme in her meetings with Indian officials.

Earlier on Sunday, Bush called Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to again offer U.S. support and condolences for the victims and their families of the attacks, which claimed the lives of nearly 200 people and injured scores more.

The U.S. State Department said on Friday five Americans were killed in the attacks in which gunmen attacked Mumbai's top luxury hotels, its biggest railway station, a Jewish center, and several other sites in India's financial capital.

"President Bush told the Prime Minister that he has directed the State and Defense departments along with other federal agencies to devote the necessary resources and personnel to this situation," said Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Rice decided to "modify" her European trip, cutting out meetings in Rome and a meeting of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, and go personally to India.

"We thought it was important to take this moment to travel to Delhi to express the condolences of the U.S. people directly to the government of India and its people and to hold face-to-face meetings," McCormack told reporters at Andrews Air Force base, where Rice was set to take off for London.

"It is very sad that India has experienced this level of terrorism. There will be discussions about how to move forward," he added.

McCormack said Rice briefed President-elect Barack Obama on Sunday to tell him about her plans -- her third conversation with Obama since the attacks on Mumbai.

On Monday, Rice will meet British Foreign Secretary David Miliband in London and on Tuesday she will attend a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels before going on to India.

(Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky and Sue Pleming in Washington; Editing by Philip Barbara)

 
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