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Thursday, 6 June, 2002, 07:00 GMT 08:00 UK
Ratsiraka's troops beaten back
Truck blocking a road
Blockades have devastated the country's economy
Forces loyal to Madagascar's elected President, Marc Ravalomanana, have repelled an attack on an airstrip in the north-eastern town of Sambava.

Fighting erupted there between Mr Ravalomanana's forces and troops loyal to former leader Didier Ratsiraka on Monday and left 15 people dead.

Mr Ratsiraka refuses to recognise his electoral defeat and has also rejected calls by the presidents of Gabon and Senegal to hold talks with Mr Ravalomananal in the Senegalese capital, Dakar.

His supporters have imposed a blockade on the capital, Antananarivo, and have reportedly dislodged the pro-Ravalomanana mayor of the port city of Mahajanga in the north-east.

Ratsiraka supporters have reportedly arrested the mayor of the port city of Mahajanga in the north-east after forcing him to resign.

They first forced Mayor Claude Pages to resign and appointed a governor of their own.

The new governor in Mahajanga has also blockaded the port, cutting it off from the rest of the country.

Talk rejected

An aide to Mr Ratsiraka said the former president wanted to see the release of his prime minister from house arrest before he would attend any talks.

Tantely Andrianarivo was arrested last week in Antananarivo.

The aide said that the former president was "showing no signs" of going to Dakar for the talks on Saturday.

Prime Minister Tantely  Andrianarivo (C) under arrest
Ratsiraka wants his prime minister set free

Presidents Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal and Omar Bongo of Gabon urged Madagascar's two rival leaders to meet in Dakar after the largest military clash since the political turmoil began with the disputed elections in December.

The BBC's Jonny Donovan says that Mr Ravalomanana's officials appear determined to use military force to break the impasse.

Presidents Wade and Bongo made their joint appeal after meeting the Secretary General of the Organisation of African Unity, Amara Essy, and the French Foreign Minister, Dominique de Villepin, in Gabon.

In their statement, Presidents Bongo and Wade appealed to the "sense of responsibility" of the two Malagasy leaders and undertook to gather emergency funds for the country in the event of a political agreement.

The two West African leaders played a major role two months ago in getting the two rivals to sign an accord aimed at ending the dispute.

The document made provision for a recount of the votes, which showed that Mr Ravalomanana had, as he had insisted all along, won the presidency.

But Mr Ratsiraka's supporters have refused to take down their barricades around the capital, deepening the crisis.

Impending disaster

Fuel and food have become scarce in Antananarivo, and aid workers warn of an impending humanitarian disaster.

On Tuesday, a large shipment of fuel arrived in Antananarivo for the first time in months.

But industry sources say the 200,000 litres delivered by 32 lorries represent less than the capital needs for one day.

The trucks came from the south-western port of Morondova, which troops loyal to Mr Ravalomanana took two weeks ago.

Meanwhile, Mr Ratsiraka has warned oil companies to supply fuel to his administration only.

The companies have been told that their assets will be seized if they provide fuel to anyone else.


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31 May 02 | Africa
27 May 02 | Africa
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