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Saturday, 20 April, 2002, 09:28 GMT 10:28 UK
Annan backs Madagascar deal
President Didier Ratsiraka (l) and his rival Marc Ravalomanana exchange documents watched by Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade
A cautious optimism has returned
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Alastair Leithead
By Alastair Leithead
BBC correspondent in Antananarivo

The UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, has welcomed the Madagascar agreement signed in Dakar by the two men who both consider themselves to be president of the Indian Ocean island.

Protesters during a general strike
Protests have been rife since the December election
The details of the deal, which involves a recount of the December presidential election and then a possible referendum, have not yet been revealed, but there is cautious optimism in the capital.

Both incumbent President Didier Ratsiraka and his rival Marc Ravalomanana claim to have won the December poll.

Supporters of self-declared President Ravalomanana are due to install their new governor in Fianarantsoa, the scene of some of the worst violence in this crisis, after forcing out the pro-Ratsiraka governor this week.

Unanswered questions

The deal is seen as a success story for the United Nations and the Organisation of African Unity which have managed to broker an agreement after two previous rounds of talks failed.

But after four months of political crisis, few people in Madagascar are convinced it will be resolved as easily as the Dakar accord suggests.

There are many unanswered questions over how a recount can be carried out so long after the ballot.

Map of Madagascar
And, despite the deal, there are doubts over whether incumbent President Ratsiraka really has the intention or indeed the capability of lifting barricades which have isolated Antananarivo for months.

People are awaiting the details and the practical implementation of the accord.

Meanwhile, Mr Ravalomanana's plan to replace the six provincial governors continues unabated.

There has been bloodshed in Fianarantsoa over the past few weeks as his own appointee tried to force the pro-Ratsiraka governor out.

He eventually succeeded this week and will be inaugurated at a ceremony on Saturday.

It was an important victory, opening up supply routes to the capital and showing that beyond deals in Senegal, Mr Ravalomanana's control is spreading, albeit slowly, across the country.

The BBC's Alastair Leithead
"He (Marc Ravalomanana) now controls two of the countries six provinces"
See also:

19 Apr 02 | Africa
Madagascar cautious on peace deal
19 Apr 02 | Africa
Madagascar's flawed accord
18 Apr 02 | Africa
Madagascar rivals sign peace deal
17 Apr 02 | Africa
Madagascar court annuls election
15 Apr 02 | Africa
Madagascar violence spreads north
05 Apr 02 | Africa
Madagascar 'at war'
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