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 frigate Stark, U.S. officials said today.
The agreement, which totals about 92% of the amount the United States was seeking for the families, was accepted after what amounted to a take-it-or-leave-it offer to a delegation of State and Defense department officials who 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 Tarik 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,” another official said.
State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler had said Monday that 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.
The claim was presented 11 months ago but Iraq stalled, arguing over the amount. The delay finally prompted the U.S. government to send a team to Baghdad last week, led by State Department legal adviser and trouble-shooter Abraham Sofaer.