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Thursday, 7 March, 2002, 16:52 GMT
Madagascar army split raises war fears
Madagascar's army is split between the rival leaders
At least 100 army officers have shown support for Madagascar's self-proclaimed president, Marc Ravalomanana, amid growing signs of division within the military.

As many as 200 officers pledged allegiance to Mr Ravalomanana on Thursday, including many who were not present but sent letters expressing loyalty, reports the French news agency, AFP.

Ministry of agriculture
Ratsiraka's portraits have been taken down

In an effort to resolve the crisis, a delegation from the Organisation of African Unity African has held talks with Madagascar's two rival rulers.

Mr Ravalomanana declared himself president last month, saying he beat the incumbent, Didier Ratsiraka, outright in December's election - a claim denied by Mr Ratsiraka who says there should be a run-off.

The political crisis is threatening to split the island state, where five provincial governors have said they recognise an alternative capital to the opposition-controlled Antananarivo.

'Civil war'

According to two generals who have sworn allegiance to the new administration, 90% of the country's soldiers now support Mr Ravalomanana.

Crisis timeline
16 Dec - Presidential election held
7 Jan - Opposition claim rigging, begin daily protests
25 Jan - Result announced, run-off ordered
28 Jan - Opposition strike begins
22 Feb - Ravalomanana declares himself president, PM announces state of emergency
27 Feb - First violent clashes in capital
28 Feb - President imposes martial law in capital
The entire gendarmerie, a police branch of the military, is thought to back him.

But a number of generals, including army chief of staff Ismael Mounibou, remain loyal to Mr Ratsiraka.

On Thursday General Mounibou warned that a split military could lead to civil war.

Few details have emerged from the OAU talks but the delegation leader said the meetings had been "very interesting and fruitful".

Stranglehold

So far, Madagascar has remained largely peaceful despite months of political stalemate.

On Monday, soldiers let "ministers" appointed by Mr Ravalomanana take office despite the imposition of martial law by Mr Ratsiraka.

The divisions look set to widen as the road linking Antananarivo to the rival "capital", Tamatave, has been cut by suspected supporters of Mr Ratsiraka.

The BBC's Alastair Leithead in Tamatave says that this will increase pressure on Antananarivo, which has not received any supplies of petrol for more than four weeks.

Antananarivo receives its supplies via the coast city of Tamatave in Mr Ratsiraka's heartland.

The blockade is also placing a stranglehold on the companies in Madagascar's free zone, a group of multinational corporations working mainly in textiles that have a huge impact on the economy.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Alastair Leithead in Antananarivo
"It's thought the majority of the gendarmerie is behind Ravalomanana"
See also:

05 Mar 02 | Africa
Madagascar 'rival capital' named
04 Mar 02 | Africa
Madagascar army 'switches sides'
28 Feb 02 | Africa
Martial law imposed in Madagascar
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