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US Secretary of State, Colin Powell
"All the crew are in fine shape and in high spirits"
 real 56k

Zhang Yuanyuan, Chinese Embassy in Washington
"The Chinese are the injured party"
 real 28k

Ivan Eland of the Cato Institute in Washington
"I think the Chinese are at fault in this incident"
 real 28k

The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes
"There is still no immediate sign of the US air crew being released"
 real 56k

Saturday, 7 April, 2001, 02:43 GMT 03:43 UK
US sees progress over spy plane
US crew
A blurry photo of the crew has been released
The United States says progress is being made in diplomatic efforts to resolve the spy plane crisis with China.

Both sides are working on a joint letter containing an exchange of views on the mid-air collision involving the US EP-3 spy plane, whose crew of 24 are still being held in China.

A senior US senator, Armed Services Committee chairman John Warner, said the letter would express American regret, but not the apology that China has been demanding.

The Chinese ambassador to Washington, Yang Jiechi, has held talks with a senior US State Department official, deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. No details of their meeting have been released.

Meeting with crew

On Friday a US diplomat met the crew - 21 men and three women who are at a secret location in Haikou, the capital of Hainan Island.

US embassy Defence Attaché Brigadier General Neal Sealock
Brig Gen Sealock did not answer questions after meeting the crew
"The crew is in great spirits, they're all together, they're looking forward to being released and returning home," said Brigadier General Neal Sealock, the US military attaché in Beijing.

President George Bush expressed optimism about the negotiations, saying: "We're working hard to bring them home and we think we're making progress".

They have been detained there since their plane was forced to land following a collision with a Chinese fighter jet over the South China Sea on Sunday.

Pilot blames US

The Chinese plane crashed into the sea and the pilot, Wang Wei, is missing, presumed dead.

Zhao Yu
Zhao Yu: "Wang Wei's plane had no way to evade"
On Friday, the pilot of the second fighter jet shadowing the US spy plane appeared on Chinese television and pinned the blame for the accident on the American aircraft.

"Wang Wei's plane had no way to evade it... it suddenly collided with him," said the pilot, Zhao Yu.

Shaking his fist in anger, he added: "The outer propeller on the left wing hit the tailplane of Wang Wei's aircraft... it was smashed to bits."

The US authorities have released footage from a previous flight showing how close, they say, Chinese aircraft regularly come to their planes.

Regular meetings

Following Brigadier General Sealock's meeting with the crew, US Secretary of State Colin Powell said he was confident the Chinese were "taking good care of our men and women".

Member of the detained US spy plane crew
US sources say the crew is being treated well
He added that the Beijing authorities had now agreed to allow US officials to see the crew regularly. A meeting has already been arranged for Saturday.

Friday's meeting was only the second time in six days that US diplomats had seen the crew.

Chinese 'exasperated'

The Chinese President, Jiang Zemin, has repeated his demand that the US apologise for the mid-air collision.

The plane landed on Hainan Island, south of the Chinese mainland
"I have visited many countries and I see that when people have an accident, the two groups involved... always say 'excuse me'," Mr Jiang said, speaking in Santiago, Chile, at the start of a 12-day Latin American tour.

Mr Jiang added that Chinese officials were exasperated by continued US surveillance flights.

"American planes come to the edge of our country... this sort of conduct is not acceptable in any country."

Washington is refusing to say sorry for something it does not admit responsibility for, although on Thursday Mr Bush did express regret for the accident.

The BBC's Duncan Hewitt in Hainan says that while the Chinese Government will take Mr Bush's words seriously, it is also under pressure from public opinion which is opposed to US surveillance flights.

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See also:

07 Apr 01 | Americas
Analysis: Bush's foreign policy
06 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
China protects vital interests
05 Apr 01 | Europe
Silence from US allies
06 Apr 01 | Media reports
Press worries over missing pilot
30 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
China arrests another US academic
23 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Key Chinese army officer defects
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