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China Demands Fuller U.S. Apology

May 11, 1999

BEIJING (AP) _ Chinese media reported American and NATO apologies for the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Yugoslavia for the first time today, but government officials said the condolences were not enough.

Russian envoy for Yugoslavia, Viktor Chernomyrdin, met with Chinese President Jiang to discuss his efforts to negotiate an end to the conflict over Kosovo. Later Chernomyrdin told reporters that both sides agree the bombing of Yugoslavia must stop before peace talks can be held.

But he also said it was necessary to go ahead with a plan backed by Russia and the seven industrialized countries to withdraw Yugoslav forces from Kosovo and deploy an international security force. Russia hopes China will not block the plan in the United Nations.

Several hundred people marched past the U.S. and British embassies in Beijing shouting slogans today _ a much smaller protest than those in the last three days. Some threw rocks, but police stopped others and tried to discourage it by moving loose paving stones away.

Police posted at the intersection where the government-approved protest route began selected who could protest and turned others away.

A group of elevator company workers in blue overalls were ushered in. Others said they were told they were too young, needed to be in a group or to have written permission. Streets were blocked to keep back onlookers.

Newspapers carried reports of President Clinton’s apology, and the midday TV news showed videotape of him saying he had offered condolences to Chinese President Jiang Zemin.

NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana also was shown apologizing, and the report included a list of NATO governments that have expressed regret.

Until today, China’s state-run media did not report U.S. and NATO apologies and had dismissed claims that Friday’s bombing of the embassy was an accident, inflaming protesters who believed the attack was intentional.

Having earlier encouraged the protests, the government began trying to dampen them, putting up posters at Beijing universities urging students to stay on campus. The posters said students could hold protest meetings, but should then return to studying, state television said.

Chinese officials said they want a fuller official apology from Washington and NATO.

``They were so indifferent. They simply said: `Well, we’re sorry.′ Then they shrugged their shoulders and walked away,″ Li Zhaoxing, China’s ambassador to Washington, said on CNN.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao said, ``To describe it in a dismissive way as a mistake cannot at all be convincing.″ He told reporters Chinese officials had noted the apology and were watching for further signs.

On Monday, Beijing officially protested the bombing by suspending diplomatic ties with Washington on human rights, arms control, international security and high-level military contacts. Officials also demanded severe punishment for those responsible.

``So far I haven’t seen any sign of the readiness of the U.S.-led NATO to bring the people responsible for the atrocity to justice,″ Li said.

In the chapel of a central Belgrade cemetery, the coffins of the three Chinese journalists killed in the attack were laid among flowers during a memorial service Monday. After cremation, the ashes were being flown home.

On Wednesday, when the remains are expected to arrive in Beijing, flags at U.S. diplomatic offices in China will be lowered to half-staff in a ``specific gesture of respect,″ said U.S. Embassy spokesman Bill Palmer.

Anti-American, anti-NATO protests have taken place in 20 Chinese cities and the U.S. consulate in the western city of Chengdu was damaged over the weekend by fire. However, U.S. consulates in other Chinese cities were quiet today, embassy spokesman Tom Cooney said.

In Beijing, most of today’s protests were directed at the U.S. Embassy. Only a few demonstrators shouted slogans as they passed the British Embassy, which lies along a seven-block, officially sanctioned protest route.

U.S. Ambassador James Sasser stayed in his embassy while security officials decided whether he could leave safely. Other U.S. diplomats were blocked from returning to the main embassy building, Palmer said.

British Ambassador Anthony Charles Galsworthy, who also remained in his embassy during the protests, was free to come and go today.

In the Beijing university district today, cafes offering Internet access demanded that students from NATO countries sign a statement condemning the attack before being allowed to check their e-mail.