”The news report has proved what we have said until now and in my speech to the Security Council. The United States has full responsibility in this matter.”
The Reagan Administration reacted cautiously today to a news report that a military investigation would show that mistakes by the crew aboard an American warship in the Persian Gulf were responsible for the downing of an Iranian airbus a month ago.
President Reagan said he had not yet seen the results of the investigation and declined further comment. Vice President George Bush, touring a military electronics plant near Annapolis, Md., said he had not been briefed on the investigation. Nevertheless, Bush repeated his argument before the United Nations last month: ”The Iranians shouldn’t be sending an airliner over a combat zone.”
Today, Mr. Sofaer, the Legal Adviser of the Department of State, issued a statement prepared for the Defense Policy Panel of the House Armed Services Committee.
”Prompted by the humanitarian traditions of our nation, and prior international practice, the President decided on July 11 that the United States would offer compensation, on an ex gratia basis, to the families of the victims. The White House announced on that date that:
The President has reviewed U.S. policy in the Persian Gulf where our military forces are protecting vital interests of the free world. He has expressed his complete satisfaction with the policy and reiterated his belief that the actions of the U.S.S. Vincennes on July 3 in the case of the Iranian airliner were justifiable defensive actions. At the same time, he remains personally saddened at the tragic death of the innocent victims of this accident and has already expressed his deep regret to their families.
The President’s decision to make ex gratia compensation has set in motion a process by which the United States will determine how, to whom, and under what conditions compensation is to be paid. I will briefly address the international legal aspects of the ex gratia payments we intend to make, including prior precedents for ex gratia payments, and what the process will be for making these payments. It is my understanding that the Department of Defense is prepared to discuss in general terms its current authority to make ex gratia payments and the funds available to do so. ”
Today, Iran accused once more Iraq of a new attack against its forces with chemical weapons. The accusation was made just 24 hours after United Nations investigators reported ”repeated utilization” of such weapons by Iraq’s army during the eight year-old conflict.
Iran’s Foreign Minister, Ali Akbar Velayati, said the attack occurred in the West Azerbaijan district of northern Iran and disabled 1,000 people. There was no immediate response from Iraq’s United Nations mission.
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