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Pan Am Victims’ Kin Meet Bush : Relatives’ ‘Outrage’ at State Dept. Vented; Probe Demanded

From Times Wire Services

Relatives of victims of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 met with President Bush today and vented frustration over what they called insensitive treatment by State Department officials.

“The opinion of our group is overwhelming outrage at the lack of compassion and incompetence and, frankly, the embarrassment that we suffered with our State Department services,” said Paul Hudson of Albany, N.Y., whose 16-year-old daughter died in the bombing.

Last December’s attack claimed 270 lives when a bomb destroyed the plane over Lockerbie, Scotland, shortly after the New York-bound flight took off from London.

“We had to deal with a foreign government . . . virtually alone,” Hudson said after a one-hour meeting with Bush.

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‘First Major Step’

“The President assured us that this sort of thing would be corrected,” Hudson told reporters.

Wendy Giebler of Hasbrouck Heights, N.J., whose husband was killed in the bombing, told reporters: “It was the first major step in acknowledging the loss of our loved ones” by the government.

“We weren’t there to get the President’s condolences,” she said. “We know the President’s sorry. . . . We want action.”

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“It’s been appalling, the treatment we’ve received” from the State Department, said Victoria Cummock of Coral Gables, Fla. “Never, until this day, have we had any of our questions answered.”

“I couldn’t believe that this country, which we all love so much, had allowed over 200 Americans to be blown up and then respond with utter silence,” she said.

“My 6-year-old son said he wanted to know the time his daddy died,” Cummock said. “When I asked the State Department, they said they were not here to disseminate information. . . . They said please call Pan Am.”

Congressional Investigation

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The relatives also told Bush that they want an independent congressional investigation of the incident and of lapses in aviation security.

Bert Ammerman, chairman of a political action committee established to help the relatives, said Bush told them that he would consider their request for a unified probe by a committee of Congress, as opposed to a variety of inquiries now under consideration.

“It was an important first step,” Ammerman told reporters in the White House.

After the session, the White House released a statement saying that Bush had “expressed his sorrow and deep concern” about the incident. “The meeting was sensitive, solemn and productive.”

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Later in the day, the relatives planned to confront members of Congress with a march to the Capitol, hold a religious service and rally in Lafayette Park across from the White House.


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