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Madagascar leaders agree to meet

2012-06-16 16:30

Antananarivo - Madagascar's interim leader Andry Rajoelina and former president Marc Ravalomanana have agreed to meet in the near future, regional mediator the SADC said late Friday.

The Southern African Development Community "notes the positive reaction from his excellency Andry Rajoelina, the president of the High Transitional Authority, and of former president his excellency Marc Ravalomanana to the resolution", the body said in a statement.

Heads of state of the 15-member regional trading bloc decided this month to bring the two rivals together for talks as the island country battles to resolve a political crisis that has raged for three years.

It suggested a meeting take place after the national independence commemoration day on June 26.

The vast Indian Ocean island has been mired in crisis since March 2009, when Rajoelina ousted Ravalomanana with military backing.

Madagascar's main political factions signed a "roadmap" last September to install a transitional unity government to guide the nation to new elections, expected at the end of this year or early 2013.

The "roadmap" was supposed to provide for the return of exiles, including Ravalomanana, who has been living in South Africa.

But the former president has not been granted amnesty and was slapped with a jail sentence in absentia in 2010 for the deaths of opposition protestors killed by his presidential guard.

Ravalomanana has since twice tried to return to Madagascar, but in January the army closed the airports and would not allow his plane to land.

The two leaders have met four times for mediations in countries in the region since the crisis started.