President Bush is sending a high-level delegation to Asia to assess needs in areas most affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami. Secretary of State Colin Powell and the president's brother, Jeb Bush, will lead the group.
White House spokesman Trent Duffy says the delegation will leave for the affected area on Sunday. He says the group will meet with regional leaders to see what additional aid can be provided by the United States.
"The delegation will be led by Secretary of State Colin Powell and Governor Jeb Bush, who has extensive experience in the state of Florida with relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts following natural disasters," he said.
Governor Jeb Bush is the president's brother, and Mr. Duffy acknowledged he is also going to demonstrate the Bush family's commitment to help the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami.
The White House spokesman said President Bush decided to send a high-level U.S. delegation once he was sure it would not prove a distraction for governments coping with the disaster.
"The president looks forward to getting the delegation's assessment of relief efforts so that our government can best help those in need," he added.
Speaking to reporters near the president's Texas ranch, Mr. Duffy emphasized the United States wants the aid effort to be as affective as possible.
The White House spokesman was asked if the delegation is a sign the United States will conduct a unilateral aid effort. He stressed that is not the case, and said America is working with other countries and the United Nations on relief and reconstruction.
President Bush said Wednesday that the $35 million already pledged by the United States is just the beginning. Officials at both the White House and the State Department are continuing to take issue with accusations America is not doing enough.
At a briefing Thursday, State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher flatly rejected the criticism.
"Any implication that the United States is not being generous, is not forthcoming, is not active, is not, in fact, leading the way, is just plain wrong, and doesn't reflect what's going on in this crisis, and doesn't reflect what's gone on in previous crises," he said.
The itinerary for the assessment team led by Secretary Powell and Governor Bush is still a work in progress. Early indications are they will remain in the region for several days.