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Zoran Lilic Hesitates to Testify Against Milosevic - 2002-07-22

A former president of Yugoslavia says he would like to testify against his successor, Slobodan Milosevic, who is on trial at the U.N war crimes tribunal in The Hague. But, former Yugoslav President Zoran Lilic says it is not that easy.

Mr. Lilic says the problem is simple: that as a former president of Yugoslavia, he could reveal state secrets during his testimony. And he says he wants guarantees from Yugoslav authorities that he will not be prosecuted for what he says when he returns home.

Mr. Lilic has received assurances of immunity from some officials - but none, he says, from those who matter: Yugoslavia's Supreme Defense council and the country's president, Vojislav Kostunica. "I wish to point out that my presence in The Hague is an expression of my respect for U.N. institution, the Trial chamber, and for you personally," he said. "And my objection to the trial chamber is a product of the need to protect me and my family from very serious sanctions stipulated by the criminal code of Yugoslavia."

Zoran Lilic came to the Hague under a subpoena and he says he believes it is in his country's interest to hear the truth and that he will testify. But he says he will do so only if he is protected from self-incrimination. Judges hope to resolve the issue later this week.

The trial of former president Milosevic started in February. It is scheduled to go into recess after this week.