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Friday, 21 June, 2002, 11:07 GMT 12:07 UK
Drive to end Madagascar crisis
A tanker blockade in Antananarivo
Blockades have devastated Madagascar's economy
Madagascar's former president, Didier Ratsiraka, has arrived in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa for a special African summit on the political crisis in his country.

The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) is holding the summit in a fresh attempt to end the political deadlock that has engulfed the Indian Ocean island since the disputed presidential election in December.

His rival, the newly proclaimed president Marc Ravalomanana, is not expected to take part.

Marc Ravalomanana
It is still unclear whether the new president will attend the summit
THe talks come as half of the Madagascan capital is without power after three electricity pylons were blown up.

A spokesman for Mr Ravalomanana's government blamed the attack on supporters of Mr Ratsiraka.

Earlier, the new Madagascan Government said it would take legal action against Mr Ratsiraka and a group of alleged French mercenaries who it claims tried to enter the island in support of the former president.

The 12 men returned to France on Thursday, where they were questioned by French police.

But the French authorities said they were allowed to go free because they had committed no crime under French law.

On Friday, three members of the pro-Ravalomanana government left the capital Antananarivo for the Addis meeting.

But Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, who is chairing the summit, said Mr Ravalomanana would not be attending.

OAU plan

Didier Ratsiraka
Ratsiraka's camp denies links with the alleged mercenaries

Mr Wade is being joined at the summit by the leaders of Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia, as well as the deputy president of South Africa and foreign ministers from Togo, Namibia, Egypt, and Gabon.

Diplomats say the meeting will focus on an OAU plan put forward on 9 June.

It envisages a transitional government with an equal number of representatives from both the Ratsiraka and Ravalomanana camps to lead the country to early general elections.

Hopes for a peaceful solution appeared to fade on the eve of the Addis meeeting as Mr Ravalomanana withdrew an offer of amnesty for Mr Ratsiraka.

Crisis deepens

Mr Ravalomanana accused his rival of involvement in the alleged attempt to send French mercenaries to Madagascar to try to destabilise the new government.

Mr Ratsiraka left Madagascar for France last week, and the Ravalomanana government says that if he returns, he will be prosecuted for trying to seek weapons and allies abroad.

The political crisis erupted six months ago, after presidential elections which the two men claimed to have won. Later, Mr Ravalomanana was formally declared the winner and appointed a government.

The BBC's Jonny Donovan in Antananarivo says that for many people in Madagascar, the latest breakdown in relations between the two camps means that Mr Ratsiraka's time is over.

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See also:

20 Jun 02 | Africa
20 Jun 02 | Africa
17 Jun 02 | Africa
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