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The BBC's Gillian Hargreaves
"Americans abroad can find themselves useful bargaining chips"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 4 April, 2001, 13:05 GMT 14:05 UK
Anguish of spy plane families
Amanda de Jesus holds a photograph of her son Josef Edmunds who is a crew member
The families just want their loved ones to come home
Families of the 24 crew members of the American spy plane confined at a Chinese military base are becoming increasingly frustrated and concerned.

Although the crew are said to be in good health, diplomatic pressure by the US Government has not yet succeeded in securing their release.


Apologise. Say what you have to to get them home

Amanda de Jesus, mother of crew member
And as the tension escalates between Washington and Beijing, some relatives believe the US should apologise to China to get their loved ones home.

Yellow ribbons are now flying from trees and poles in towns across the US in support of the 21 men and three women, whose fate has become headline news for America's media.

Amanda de Jesus, whose son Josef Edmunds was a technician on board the EP-3 plane, said she was relieved to hear he was not being mistreated.

But in an interview with ABC Television's Good Morning America programme, she said President George W Bush should apologise to the Chinese.

"There's no real blame but they (the Chinese) have got... 24 of the United States' most precious resources. Apologise, say what you have to to get them home."

Other relatives are not so sure. James Coursen's son Shawn is a technical operator on the plane.

"I definitely think Shawn is a hostage there. I think President Bush should have given them (the Chinese) some kind of ultimatum."

Frustration

The US Navy has assigned a squadron member to each family to brief them on the latest developments, but frustration is clearly growing.

"The spouses that I spoke to... were very concerned for the well-being of their loved ones, and they were very, very angry," said Captain William Marriot, a commander at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, the home base for the surveillance plane.

Yellow ribbons festoon trees, fences, traffic signs and poles around the base in the town of Oak Harbor, some 80km (50 miles) north of Seattle.

Ribbons have been tied on trees around the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station
People have been quick to show their support for the stranded crew
Barbara DiStefano, whose brother Kenneth Richter is a code technician, launched a yellow ribbon campaign on Staten Island, where he grew up.

"Just like when I was in junior high school, when Iran had captives, everyone had a yellow ribbon," she said.

While US officials are concerned about the prospects of the Chinese examining the airplane to steal technological secrets, Ms DiStefano said her concerns were more personal:

"I know this sounds horrible. I really don't care about the plane," she said. "I just want the people returned."

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