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Wednesday, 26 June, 2002, 15:36 GMT 16:36 UK
US recognises Madagascar leader
Marc Ravalomanana
Ravalomanana was inaugurated but not recognised
The United States is the first major power to formally recognise Marc Ravalomanana as Madagascar's president.

A letter from President George W Bush was presented to Mr Ravalomanana later on Wednesday by the US Ambassador.


We will interact with his ministers... as we would with any other government around the world

US Ambassador Wanda Nesbitt
Mr Ravalomanana was sworn in as president last month following a recount of votes cast in December's disputed elections but his inauguration was not internationally recognised at the time.

Madagascar's long-standing leader Didier Ratsiraka has refused to accept his defeat and scores of people have been killed in the dispute.

On Wednesday, ambassadors from all the major donor countries, except former colonial power France, attended an independence day speech by Mr Ravalomanana, reports the French news agency, AFP.

The BBC's Jonny Donovan in Antananarivo says that thousands of cheering spectators were also there.

Assets frozen

Correspondents say that other western countries look set to follow the US lead, with the possible exception of France.

Mr Ravalomanana, however, said he expected France to recognise him soon.

"They [France] will come, I am sure," he told our correspondent.

Army band playing at the independence celebrations
Thousands turned out to celebrate independence

Last weekend, the Organisation of African Unity refused to recognise either man as Madagascar's leader.

But the American position is crucial as the bulk of Madagascar's cash assets are held at the US federal reserve, reports AFP.

These have been frozen during the six-month dispute when it was not clear who was running the country.

The freeing of the foreign reserves will enable the Ravalomanana government to pay debts to oil companies, buy additional fuel and essential medicines.

Fuel at last

US ambassador Wanda Nesbitt told our correspondent that it would take up to 14 days to unblock the $80m of foreign reserves.

"We will interact with his [Ravalomanana's] ministers and other people in the government as we would with any other government around the world," she said on the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

Mr Ratsiraka set up a rival government in his heartland of Tamatave and imposed blockades on Mr Ravalomanana's base in Antananarivo.

Blockades to the ports of Mahajanga and Toliara have now been dismantled and on Tuesday, the first major shipment of petrol arrived in the capital for several months.

This led to long queues of cars outside petrol stations and the return of traffic jams after months of empty streets.

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 ON THIS STORY
Jonny Donovan on BBC Focus on Africa
"Mr Ravalomanana is half-way towards achieving his goal"

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23 Jun 02 | Africa
22 Jun 02 | Africa
21 Jun 02 | Africa
20 Jun 02 | Africa
20 Jun 02 | Africa
17 Jun 02 | Africa
27 May 02 | Africa
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