New Search Area May Be Opened In Indian Ocean For Missing Malaysia Airlines Plane, White House Says

WASHINGTON, March 13 (Reuters) - A new search area may be opened in the Indian Ocean as authorities try to determine what happened to a missing Malaysian airliner, the White House said on Thursday.

"It's my understanding that based on some new information that's not necessarily conclusive - but new information - an additional search area may be opened in the Indian Ocean," White House spokesman Jay Carney said. "And we are consulting with international partners about the appropriate assets to deploy."

Carney did not specify the nature of the "new information."

Carney sidestepped a question as to whether the United States has confidence in the investigation being conducted by the Malaysian government.

"I just don't have an evaluation to make," he said. "What I can tell you is that we're working with the Malaysian government to try to find the plane; find out what happened to it for the sake of the families and, obviously, for the sake of knowing what caused the plane to disappear."

The United States has been helping in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, including the deployment of U.S. Navy vessels. It also has sent National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration officials there.

"There are a number of possible scenarios that are being investigated as to what happened to the flight. And we are not in a position at this time to make conclusions about what happened, unfortunately. But we're actively participating in the search," Carney told a regular news briefing.

"We're looking at information, pursuing possible leads, working within the investigation being led by the Malaysian government."

U.S. defense officials told Reuters the guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd was en route to Strait of Malacca, west of the Malaysian peninsula, to continue the search for the missing jetliner, answering a request from the Malaysian government. The officials said they were unaware of any new evidence indicating where the plane might have crashed.

The Kidd had been searching the areas south of the Gulf of Thailand, along with the destroyer USS Pinckney. A U.S. defense official noted that a Navy P-3 Orion aircraft had already searched the Strait of Malacca.