U.S. to Bombing Victims: We’re $4.5 Million Sorry

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On Friday, the United States put a price tag on the people killed and injured in the accidental bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade: $4.5 million. The compensatory sum, the result of negotiations between representatives of the U.S and China, is to be paid to the families of the three people killed and to the 27 who were hurt. "The President took a strong personal interest in the negotiations and urged U.S. officials to get this done quickly," says TIME White House correspondent Jay Branegan. "Though the U.S takes the position that it was not legally obligated to pay, the President decided to do this as a humanitarian gesture."

More complicated are the next steps. The Chinese government wants the U.S. to also pay up for the physical damage to the building. On that point, says Branegan, Washington is taking a tougher line and insisting that if China wants money for its blown-up building, then the U.S wants money for damage to its embassy and consulates, which were assaulted by violent Chinese demonstrators following the bombing. Reaching a deal on this matter could prove stickier. American officials report that Friday’s agreement "has improved the tone of relations between the two countries," says Branegan. But so far, there has been little movement on the raft of differences that still separate the two governments on most subjects.