In a telephone conversation with Kilari Anand Paul, an Indian evangelist, Taylor said "bring two attorneys. Bring them any way you can. I need somebody to take charge of this defence immediately ... (I need) to put things into motion because we have only 30 days to answer the indictment".

Paul had included an Associated Press reporter in the conference call late on Sunday with Taylor, who spoke from a prison cell at the tribunal. But the reporter was not allowed to ask questions for fear prison authorities would disconnect the call.

Paul later told The AP that Taylor had asked him to contact a top law professor at Harvard University, in Boston, and a senior Queen's Council lawyer in Britain.

Taylor is to go to court on Monday, where he will be read 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including sexual slavery and mutilation, for his alleged part in fostering Sierra Leone's 1991-2002 civil war.

Security is tight at the Special Court in Sierra Leone, the country to which Taylor is accused of exporting his own civil war. Court officials who have received death threats and the first former African president to be charged with crimes against humanity will be protected by bulletproof glass and dozens of UN peacekeepers from Mongolia and Ireland.

Taylor is to be judged by a UN-backed tribunal established to try those seen as bearing greatest responsibility for atrocities during Sierra Leone's 1991-2002 civil war.