The United States and Iraq have reached a tentative agreement calling for Iraq to pay $27.3 million to the families of 37 American sailors killed in the 1987 missile attack on the USS Stark, U.S. officials said Tuesday.
The agreement, which totals about 92 percent of the amount the United States was seeking for the families, was presented as what amounted to a take-it-or-leave-it offer to a delegation of State and Defense department officials that traveled to Baghdad, the officials said.The officials, who insisted on anonymity, said the American delegation had been called in to see Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz on Monday "and told that this was what (Iraqi) President (Saddam) Hussein had decided."
"There were no negotiations," one source continued. "They just announced this was what they were prepared to pay."
"It was apparent to our delegation that this was going to be the best they could do. They didn't dicker," said another official.
State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler had said Monday the two sides were in "the final stages of achieving a substantial settlement on the claims."
The United States submitted a $29.6 million claim for the 37 crew members who died on the guided missile frigate when an Iraqi jet fighter fired two French-made Exocet missiles at the ship on May 17, 1987. Iraq said the Persian Gulf attack was an accident, and the United States accepted the explanation.