Page last updated at 16:24 GMT, Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Troops patrol Madagascar streets


Inside the looted shop in Antananarivo

Soldiers are patrolling the streets of Madagascar's capital, Antananarivo, after two days of anti-government protests, rioting and looting.

Thousands of opposition supporters have held a large street rally, at which their leader called further protests.

At least 34 people have died since violence erupted on Monday, including at least 25 suspected looters whose bodies were found in a burnt-out store.

Protests were started by a row between the city's mayor and the president.

The BBC's Christina Corbett says the opposition mayor of Antananarivo, Andry Rajoelina, appeared on television on Tuesday evening and called for a curfew.

Our correspondent says that security forces have also been on the streets and some calm has returned, with buses running and people out walking.

'Whatever means'

However, there was no sign of improving relations between Mr Rajoelina and his political foe, President Marc Ravalomanana.

Mr Rajoelina called for a "dead city" on Wednesday and Thursday - people to stay off the streets and away from work - and for a further rally on Saturday.

President Ravalomanana, meanwhile, accused the mayor of stoking unrest in the capital.

"It was him [Rajoelina] the leader, the initiator of these disturbances," Mr Ravalomanana said as he visited the state radio building, damaged in the protests.

President Marc Ravalomanana
Mr Ravalomanana addressed crowds after seeing the damage

He appealed for calm, adding that his priority was "to establish order by whatever means".

He says that troops had not intervened at the height of the opposition protests on Monday because: "I would rather buildings and things were destroyed than human lives."

The government has also issued arrest warrants for two men accused of inciting violence.

These include Roland Ratsiraka, nephew of former President Didier Ratsiraka.

Mr Rajoelina has been an outspoken critic of the president since winning the mayoral seat in 2007.

Differences between the two men worsened after last month's closure of the mayor's television network, Viva, following the broadcast of an interview with ex-President Ratsiraka.

Viva is now back on air.

At the weekend, Mr Rajoelina held a rally in Antananarivo and called for a general strike against the government, which he accuses of being a dictatorship.

On Monday, the protests turned violent and two demonstrators were killed.

State-owned TV and radio stations were attacked and shops belonging to Mr Ravalomanana looted.

The mayor wants those responsible for the two deaths brought to justice before he enters into talks with Mr Ravalomanana. He has also called for a transitional government to be set up.

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