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Monday, 6 May, 2002, 11:20 GMT 12:20 UK
Second coming in Madagascar
Marc Ravalomanana
Ravalomanana has already been sworn in once
The man declared the winner of Madagascar's disputed presidential election has been sworn in.

Marc Ravalomanana took the oath of office in front of a crowd of 100,000 people, significantly including western diplomats, in the capital, Antananarivo.

I solemnly take an oath before God, the nation and the people that I will assume the functions of President of the Republic

Marc Ravalomanana
However incumbent President Didier Ratsiraka is refusing to accept the result.

This is the second time that Mr Ravalomanana has taken the oath of office but the BBC's Alastair Leithead in Antananarivo says this time he has legal backing.

Mr Ravalomanana claimed victory in last December's elections, although official results said that neither candidate had won outright.

Last week, a recount gave the self-made millionaire and mayor of the capital, 51% of the vote.

New talks

At Monday's ceremony, the president of the High Constitutional Court placed the sash of red, green and white, the colours of the Malagasy flag, over Mr Ravalomanana's shoulders, before declaring him president.

"I solemnly take an oath before God, the nation and the people that I will assume the functions of President of the Republic following the Constitution and the laws of the state for the good of all inhabitants," said Mr Ravalomanana.

Didier Ratsiraka
Ratsiraka does not recognise his rival's victory

A new round of talks between the bitter rivals will be held next week in Senegal in a bid to solve the long-running dispute which has brought Madagascar's economy to a standstill.

The Senegalese President, Abdoulaye Wade, said the talks would be held on 13-14 May, the French news agency, AFP, reports.

The two men signed a deal in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, last month, but it has not been implemented.


Representatives from western powers attended the ceremony.

Our correspondent says this shows the international community is starting to lean towards Mr Ravalomanana after being largely neutral up to now.

However, the ambassadors of former colonial ruler France and the United States were not present.

Large crowd at the swearing in ceremony
Ravalomanana enjoys massive support in the capital

Mr Ratsiraka has dismissed the ceremony - the second time Mr Ravalomanana has been sworn in since December's vote - as a second coup d'etat.

To coincide with the ceremony, Mr Ratsiraka was planning to hold a special meeting of his government which is now in exile at Tamatave in the east of the island.

In recent months, the Indian Ocean state has been increasingly, and sometimes violently, split between supporters of the two men.

Festive lights

The Organisation of African Unity - which has been trying to broker an agreement - has failed to come out in support of either man.

Festive lights - usually reserved for the country's Independence Day celebrations - decorated the streets of Antananarivo ahead of the swearing-in ceremony.

Efforts by his government in exile and provincial governors to destabilise Antananarivo and its new president are continuing.

For months, a blockade between the capital and the main port has starved the city of fuel and crippled its manufacturing industry and thus its economy.

Governors of most of the provinces outside Mr Ravalomanana's base of Antananarivo are continuing with their plans for secession to a confederation of independent states.

Jonny Donovan reporting for BBC Focus on Africa
"A thundering cheer shook the stadium"
See also:

04 May 02 | From Our Own Correspondent
Chasing shadows in Madagascar
01 May 02 | Africa
Madagascar inauguration delayed
26 Apr 02 | Africa
Split threat in Madagascar
23 Apr 02 | Africa
Madagascar governors stand firm
18 Apr 02 | Africa
Madagascar rivals sign peace deal
17 Apr 02 | Africa
Madagascar court annuls election
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