TOM BEARDEN: Americans awakened to Serbian television images of the
three American GI's: Staff Sergeant Andrew Ramirez of Los Angeles, Staff
Sergeant Christopher Stone of Smith's Creek, Michigan, and Specialist
Steven Gonzales of Huntsville, Texas. American army units searched throughout
the night at the twisting roads that parallel the border between Yugoslavia
and Macedonia. There have been reports that the Americans might have
been seized by Serbian residents of this village on the Macedonian side
and delivered to Serb troops. The Pentagon said it was investigating
their capture as an abduction.
SPOKESMAN: They were reported missing yesterday by their command, and
the last transmission was that they were surrounded, involved in a fire
fight, and felt that they were surrounded at the time. Whether or not
they later had escaped from that and had driven in the wrong direction,
or whether they were fleeing on foot, we did not know. We knew they
were missing. They were reported as missing, and it was confirmed when
we saw them on television.
TOM BEARDEN: Serbian authorities claimed the soldiers had been captured
inside Yugoslavia, and this afternoon a Yugoslav news agency said they
would be subject to a military trial. In a speech to military families
in Norfolk, Virginia, President Clinton said he would hold Yugoslav
President Slobodan Milosevic responsible for their treatment.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Three army infantrymen were seized as they were carrying
out a peaceful mission in Macedonia, protecting that country from the
violence in neighboring Kosovo. There was absolutely no basis for them
to be taken. There was no basis for them to be held. There is certainly
no basis for them to be tried. All Americans are concerned about their
welfare. President Milosevic should make no mistake: The United States
takes care of its own. (cheers and applause) And President Milosevic
should make no mistake: We will hold him and his government responsible
for their safety and for their well being.
TOM BEARDEN: State Department Spokesman James Rubin reacted sharply
to the prospect of a military trial for the Americans.
JAMES RUBIN: Well, such a trial was obviously ridiculous. For the Serbs
to try to court martial American soldiers, it was -- you know, the fact
is, it was illegal for them to be abducted, and they were performing
a mission in a neutral country. There is no basis for their detention,
and under the Geneva Convention, to subject them to some phony trial
about - called a court-martial -- ridiculous.
TOM BEARDEN: In Brussels, NATO Commander General Wesley Clark noted
that the soldiers appeared injured in the television pictures, and demanded
the Serbs abide by the Geneva Convention.
GEN. WESLEY CLARK: We've all seen their pictures -- treated, and we
have a long memory about these kinds of things. So I have not called
any Yugoslav military authorities. They know very well what the right
way to treat people is. They know what the law is.
TOM BEARDEN: Meanwhile, the exodus of ethnic Albanians out of Kosovo
continues. The United Nations High Commission on refugees now estimates
that 180,000 people have fled the province. The Serbs have begun using
trains to transport refugees to the border. The German Foreign Minister
compared it to Germany's systematic destruction of Jews during World
War II. General Clark said the Serbian army is directly attacking unarmed
GEN. WESLEY CLARK: What we've seen on the ground yesterday and this
morning is a continuation of the general pattern of ethnic cleansing
and the attacks by heavy forces, tanks, and artillery and armored fighting
vehicles -- against essentially unarmed refugees, particularly in the
Pagarusa Valley area.
TOM BEARDEN: Despite bad weather, NATO's air campaign continued in Yugoslavia.
Missiles destroyed a major bridge over the Danube River in Serbia's
second largest city, Novisad. NATO officials said cloud cover had slowed
the pace of operations, but vowed to continue. Late this afternoon,
the Pentagon announced that 12 additional F-117 Stealth Fighters are
being sent to participate in the aerial campaign. But critics say the
continuing flood of refugees calls into question the viability of NATO's
basic strategy. President Clinton called for patience and perseverance.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: We've been doing this for seven days now, just seven
days. Our pilots have performed bravely and well -- in the face of dangerous
conditions and often abysmal weather. But we must be determined and
patient. We cannot do everything in the world, but we must do what we
can. We can never forget the Holocaust, the genocide, the carnage of
the 20th century. We don't want the new century to bring us the same
nightmares in a different guise.
TOM BEARDEN: On the diplomatic front, Russian President Boris Yeltsin
appealed for the foreign ministers of the Group of Eight Industrial
Countries to convene an emergency meeting on the Yugoslav crisis. In
Belgrade, Milosevic met with the de facto leader of Kosovo's ethnic
majority, Ibrahim Ragova. Serbian news agencies reported that Ragova
had called for an end to the bombing campaign, but NATO and US officials
questioned whether he was acting under duress. Several religious groups
have called on NATO and Yugoslavia to cease fire and return to the bargaining
table. The Vatican dispatched a delegation to Belgrade, and eight US
Roman Catholic bishops called on both sides to make peace in the Balkans.