Rajoelina calls for talks with rivals

ANTANANARIVO - Madagascar's new army-backed government offered to start talks with allies of ousted president Marc Ravalomanana to defuse political tensions that risk prolonging the months-long crisis.

ANTANANARIVO - Madagascar's new army-backed government offered to start talks with allies of ousted president Marc Ravalomanana to defuse political tensions that risk prolonging the months-long crisis.

Faced with international condemnation and daily protests against his rise, President Andry Rajoelina's government yesterday said national reconciliation talks were scheduled for April 2 to April 3.

They would include discussions of when to hold a new presidential poll, the government said.

Foreign powers and Ravalomanana's supporters say Rajoelina's assumption of power last week was effectively a coup d'etat.

Members of Ravalomanana's political party declined to say whether they would take part in the proposed dialogue.

Rajoelina has vowed to hold an election within two years, but is under pressure to do that sooner.

Unrest before Ravalomanana's fall killed at least 135 people, crippled the island's tourism sector and unnerved foreign investors in the Indian Ocean island's burgeoning mine and oil industries.

While the violence has stopped, the spectre of more trouble remains as thousands of Ravalomanana's supporters rally daily at a park in Antananarivo. Some 12000 gathered yesterday for the third consecutive day.

Rajoelina's communications minister, Augustin Andriamananoro, said next week's talks would include "all stakeholders". - Reuters

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