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Sunday, 17 February, 2002, 12:39 GMT
Madagascar seeks political solution
Antananarivo demonstration
Strikes and mass protests have crippled the country
By Alastair Leithead in Antananarivo

Negotiators are locked in talks in the capital of Madagascar in an effort to resolve the political crisis and the general strike which are crippling the country.

Five representatives from each side have been meeting every day since Thursday in an attempt to solve the dispute over the first round of elections, widely accused of being fraudulent, and to decide how to hold a second ballot to legally select a new president.

The opposition hopeful, Marc Ravalomanana, who called the general strike and has huge support in Antananarivo, has set a deadline of Monday for the committee to come to an agreement before he will "act".

In his address to the people on Friday, he asked for their continuing support.

Call for resignation

Mr Ravalomanana said the prime minister had called on civil servants to return to work. If they did not, he said, the prime minister should resign.

No-one is sure exactly what Mr Ravalomanana has planned if an agreement is not reached, but he is expected to have the backing of the tens of thousands of people who march through the streets of Antananarivo every weekday.

The city and the country are waiting to see whether the negotiators can break the deadlock, and if not, what will happen on the streets of the capital on Monday.

See also:

15 Feb 02 | Business
Election row sours Malagasy success
15 Feb 02 | Africa
Madagascar talks resume
14 Feb 02 | Africa
Madagascar's capital 'cut off'
12 Feb 02 | Africa
Call to postpone Madagascar poll
09 Feb 02 | Africa
Madagascar vote 'rigged'
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