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    GENERAL IVASHOV REFUSES TO BE WITNESS FOR THE DEFENCE AT MILOSEVIC TRIAL

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    MOSCOW, September 16 (RIA Novosti) - Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, vice-president of the academy of geopolical studies, has told RIA today about his refusal to make his appearance as a witness for the defence at the Hague trial over former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

    According to the general, he was directly involved, as a Russian defence ministry representative (he headed international military cooperation department) in efforts to settle the Kosovo crisis. He had thus earlier agreed to take part in the criminal proceedings against the Yugoslav ex-president as a witness for the defence.

    But the recent moves by the International Crime Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) "made me change my mind", said Ivashov. He reported that the ICTY had imposed upon Milosevic, despite his will, its own council for the defence who is entitled to select witnesses for the defence, to determine the nature of their evidence and to interpret it.

    "Under the circumstances when my testimony can be used against Milosevic and would not serve objectivity and fair decision-making, I have refused to take part in the trial," said the Russian general.

    If the ICTF creates legally-valid and fair conditions and observes international law, Ivashov is prepared to stand for the defence at this trial.

    A similar statement was made earlier by former Soviet Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov, a current member of the upper chamber of parliament, who refused to make his appearance at the Milosevic trial in protest of the former Yugoslav leader's violated rights.

    There is evidence that 20 of 23 witnesses for the defence, who were to testify in the Milosevic case in the near future, have also voiced their refusal to show up in the courtroom and thus expressed their solidarity with the Yugoslav ex-president.

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