Clinton to Serbs: We Take Care of Our Own

  • Share
  • Read Later
NORFOLK, Va.: For once, President Clinton stopped short of an ultimatum. "President Milosevic should make no mistake: The United States takes care of its own," Clinton told servicemembers in a speech at a Navy base, referring to the three U.S. soldiers who are now Milosevic's prisoners in Yugoslavia. "We will hold him and his government responsible for their safety and their well-being." Luckily, Milosevic seems more inclined to play nice with his three captives -- "He knows that if something happens to the U.S. soldiers he's in very big trouble," says TIME Pentagon correspondent Mark Thompson. "Whatever that may mean."

As for the announcement on Serb television that the three would be tried before a military court on Friday, the State Department said any trial "would be in violation of international law." But the Pentagon is already backing off claims that the GIs were on Macedonian territory at the time of their capture. The mountainous border is a gray area, and so is international law -- especially as Milosevic sees it. "NATO's bombing him, and peacekeepers or not, these guys are NATO troops," says Thompson. "Milosevic may treat them with kid gloves for his own p.r. reasons, or he may try them to prove a point. But he's not reading the Geneva convention to help him decide."