But the action was not as aggressive as it might appear.
"We followed our standard diplomatic practice for cases of broken relations," Lee McClenny, a State Department spokesman, told Reuters.
McClenny said Washington told the Yugoslavs Friday, March 26, that under the Vienna Convention, they would have to vacate their embassy and send home all staff except those few who would represent Yugoslavia under the protection of another country's embassy.
He said the deadline for the Yugoslavs to leave expired at midnight on Tuesday and so U.S. officials went to the embassy and told staff they needed to vacate the premises.
Although the U.S. intentions had not been publicly announced, McClenny said of the Yugoslavs: "We did not kick them out. They had foreknowledge. Everyone knew in advance," that they would have to leave.
"In order to fulfill its obligations under the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations, the U.S. government took formal custody of the former Yugoslav chancery and the ambassador's residence at midnight on March 30," he said.
He said Washington has promised to "respect and protect the properties without prejudice to the eventual settlement of property issues among all the successor states to the former Yugoslavia."
The break in diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Yugoslavia actually occurred as soon as the bombs started falling last week. Yugoslavia announced on March 25 its decision to break diplomatic relations with the United States.
The Yugoslavian mission to the United Nations in New York continues to operate because Belgrade has not broken relations with the world body, according to McClenny. The Yugoslav diplomats who were in Washington have gone to the New York mission until other arrangements are made, he said.
As the bombing grinds on, the Clinton administration plans to increase its efforts to explain to the American people why it believes such action is necessary.
President Clinton is scheduled to sit down for an interview with CBS News Anchor Dan Rather for broadcast on 60 Minutes II at 9 p.m. Wednesday. The interview is expected to be wide-ranging, covering the Kosovo crisis and the president's views on his troubled year. It will be Mr. Clinton's first interview in more than a year.