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Madagascar rivals to hold talks in Mozambique
Tue Aug 4, 2009 4:48pm EDT
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By Charles Mangwiro
MAPUTO (Reuters) - Madagascar's army-backed president, his predecessor and two other former leaders of the Indian Ocean island will meet in Mozambique on Wednesday in a bid to revive faltering peace talks, regional body SADC said.
Tomaz Salomao, executive secretary of the 15-member Southern African Development Community, told reporters in Maputo on Tuesday that President Andry Rajoelina and former leader Marc Ravalomanana would attend the talks.
Madagascar has been shaken by political instability since the start of the year. Rajoelina and dissident soldiers ousted Ravalomanana in March after weeks of street protests, branding the former president corrupt and dictatorial.
The power grab alarmed foreign investors, put off tourists and depressed economic growth. Since March, Rajoelina has been shunned by many nations and Ravalomanana, living in exile in South Africa, insists he is still the legitimate leader.
The African Union indefinitely suspended crisis talks in Madagascar in June after failing to broker a deal on the formation of a consensus government.
Rajoelina told reporters before leaving for Maputo on Tuesday he was attending the talks to try to end violence and restore peace to Madagascar.
Asked whether he would meet Ravalomanana, Rajoelina said: "Some things are difficult to do, but we have accepted out of patriotism. Many issues must still be tackled. We must put aside personal interest and only consider the general interest.
"I'm not afraid of meeting Marc Ravalomanana, Didier Ratsiraka or Albert Zafy," he said.
Ratsiraka and Zafy, both former presidents, are also due to attend the talks. They are still seen as influential power brokers, and analysts say they would need to be part of any lasting solution to Madagascar's political turmoil.
"We hope a solution can be found because the people are suffering," Zafy told reporters before leaving for the talks.
Salamoa said the SADC hoped the four-day meeting in Mozambique could produce a transitional agreement leading to an end to the crisis.
"Basically they will discuss the format of talks, the agenda and the venue of discussions. The regional organization (SADC) is only encouraging all involved parties to sit down, talk and find a way forward," Salamoa said.
"The Malagasy people must decide and agree on what issues must be tackled, they must prepare the agenda. SADC, the AU, the United Nations and the Francophone (countries) are only supporting the dialogue."
Rajoelina has said presidential elections will be held by the end of 2010 but could take place earlier under the right conditions. The timing of polls and who will be able to stand have been sticking points. Continued...
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