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Diplomacy in Action

Interview With Andrea Mitchell of NBC


Interview
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Port-au-Prince, Haiti
January 16, 2010

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*Note: transcript provided by NBC News.*

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, from what you've seen so far, what have you learned since you've been on the ground that will help you make decisions that will help the people of Haiti?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Andrea, the most important thing is the very long meeting that I had with President Preval and his Prime Minister and the leadership that are functioning. We went into great detail about what Haiti needed, what the government needed and how we could better coordinate. I was able to convey both our willingness to assist, but our need to have that coordination so we are going to be working very hard. You know, I like - (airplane noise) That's a good sound. That means something good is happening. Somebody's coming or going. I was also able to have a briefing with our military on the ground, our embassy, our ambassador, who's the chief of mission coordinating all of this. And we took a lot of notes - we have a lot of ideas that we're going to follow up on and I think we're making progress but we have a long way to go.

QUESTION: There is the perception - there've been complaints or reports of bottlenecks - that there's a lot of aid coming in but it's very hard to get it out to the people who need it.

SECRETARY CLINTON: That's just not true. The aid is coming in - we're getting it out - there's just not enough of it yet. Because we don't yet have the distribution networks, nor do we have the port open so everything you see is either coming in by air and the airport has one runway. The United States worked hard to get it open. Our military forces are working hard with the Haitians to run and to prioritize it but it's not optimal. We don't have ports so the big container ships can't get in. And the overland route to the Dominican Republic is a long one, but the Dominicans have been great. So everybody's working and they're coordinating but we have a - we have a lot to do to get the system moving faster.

QUESTION: What can you do - what are you going to order as a result of being here?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we're working closely as you know - all of government. And we're going to stand up a coordination center that we agreed on today. It will be a Haitian government center but obviously the United States will be there, the United Nations, MINUSTAH - the peacekeepers - other countries that are major actors in the wake of this tragedy. We're going to work hard to get the ports assessed so we can get them operational to the best of our ability. We're going to look to see how much we can bring heavy equipment and the like from the Dominican Republic. We're going to use the radio more to communicate with the Haitians so that they know what we're doing. We have a long list that we're going to be executing.

QUESTION: On a personal level, you came here on your honeymoon.

SECRETARY CLINTON: I did. A long time ago.

QUESTION: You have a connection, an emotional connection, to Haiti - as does your husband.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Right. Right.

QUESTION: What does it mean to you to come here, after working so hard on improving the lives of Haitians for the last year and even before that, before you were Secretary of State? What does it mean to you to see all of this?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it's heartbreaking. But again the resilience and strength of the people is inspirational. It's especially sad to me because President Obama and I made this a priority. My husband happens to be the special envoy from the United Nations. We had a great U.S.-U.N. team working with a lot of international actors. And we had a government of Haiti that was really moving. They had their own plans. They had their own strategic vision. We were coming in behind them. And we're not going to forget about that, but we've got to deal with the living and the dead. We've got to get the food and the water and the medical supplies out there. But we're making progress. Today was a better day than yesterday and tomorrow will be better than today.

QUESTION: Can Haiti come back?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Of course. Absolutely. I hope better than ever.

QUESTION: Thank you Madam Secretary



PRN: 2010/T19-7



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