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U.S. SAYS PILOTS CELEBRATED HIT

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The Clinton administration made public on Tuesday a transcript of aerial radio conversations that American diplomats say proves Cuban military pilots knew they had targeted a small civilian plane and screamed with glee when they made a direct hit.

"The target is in sight, the target is in sight," the pilot of one MiG-29 told a nearby MiG-23, as the fighters closed in on the aircraft piloted by members of an anti-Castro Cuban-American group, Brothers to the Rescue. "It's a small aircraft.""Copied," the ground controller answered. "A small plane in sight."

The MiG-23 crew clamored for authorization to shoot, then exulted in the destruction of the first plane: "This one won't mess around anymore."

The transcripts were released at a news conference on Tuesday by Madeleine Albright, the chief American delegate, hours after the Security Council agreed early on Tuesday morning to a much weaker condemnation of Cuba than Washington hoped to get.

Four people are presumed to have died in the incident Saturday afternoon. Leaders of the Cuban-American group vowed to return to the site this week to strew flowers on the water.

"I was struck by the joy of these pilots in committing coldblooded murder," Albright said, noting the pilots' crude references to "taking out the cojones" of their victim and bragging about their own success in similar language. "Frankly, this is not cojones, this is cowardice," she said, visibly angry.

Several air-to-air and air-to-controller conversations in the transcript released on Tuesday, translated from Spanish by the U.S. government, seem to demonstrate that at least in the case of one Cessna, the fighter planes made no effort to warn off the civilian pilot as required by international aviation procedures.

The only caution, according to the transcript, was a radio message from air traffic controllers in Havana as three American planes notified the tower they were crossing south over the 24th parallel, which Cuba regards as an "air defense identification zone."

The transcript records the defiant response to Havana's message from Jose Basulto, the leader of the Cuban-American group and pilot of the only Cessna to survive the flight: "We are aware that we are in danger each time we cross the area to the south of the 24th, but we are willing to do it as free Cubans."

"The transcript shows there was plenty of time for the pilots of the MiGs to do all the legal things in terms of warning airplanes that might be in territory dangerous to them," Albright said.

Although Cuba continues to insist the aircraft were shot down about five miles from their coast - well within the internationally recognized limit of territorial waters, which extends 12 miles from the shore - American diplomats on Tuesday released radar-tracking data from the Coast Guard locating the planes outside Cuban waters.

The Miami Herald reported on Tuesday it had interviewed a fishing boat captain who said he was in international waters when debris from the first plane fell around his boat. In the air traffic transcript released on Tuesday, the Cuban pilots speak of a vessel immediately under the shooting.

But Albright has steered the focus away from this aspect of the case to the undisputed fact that the aircraft attacked by military jets were known to be civilian planes, in contravention of international law.

On the transcript, in an exchange the Americans said suggests the Cubans knew the shooting would be illegal, the Cuban pilots consider holding their fire because they notice ships on the sea below. The Americans suggested that the reference indicated that the Cubans feared the incident might be witnessed by the vessels below.

MiG-29 to ground control: "We are going to give it a pass. We are going to give it a pass."

MiG-23 to MiG-29: "If we give it a pass, it will complicate things."

MiG-29 to MiG-23: "We are going to give it a pass. Because some vessels are approaching there; I am going to give it a pass."

Cuba warned on Tuesday that it is prepared to shoot down any and all aircraft, military or civilian, that violate its air space, "if the circumstances are imposed on us."

In a communique published on the front page of Granma, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Cuba, the Ministry of Foreign Relations said the government had made "a complete and unbreakable decision to confront and smash attacks similar" to the flight of three light planes Saturday.

The Cuban government pronouncement was made public before Basulto, leader of Brothers to the Rescue, vowed to fly again to the site. Cuban government officials made it clear on Tuesday afternoon that the earlier warning applies to him and his group, and urged the United States to take steps to halt the flights.

"Our position is firm," one said. "What happened, happened. Now we have to see what Washington does. Is the United States going to let these flights continue?"

The Security Council has been moving slowly on the issue. It took Albright from Sunday evening until early on Tuesday to get a council statement that strongly "deplores" rather than condemns the Cuban action, a sign that there is little chance of getting approval for the U.N. sanctions called for by President Clinton.

On Tuesday, Albright insisted that the United States was "delighted" with the statement.

A statement originally intended not only to condemn Cuba but also to set the stage for future punitive Security Council action was delayed Monday and watered down mostly because of resistance by China.

The Chinese envoy, Qin Huasun, insisted all day that he was waiting for instructions from Beijing, where Chinese officials apparently preferred to hold off action until Cuba had a chance to state its case in the council.