Page last updated at 16:58 GMT, Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Ex-Madagascar leader resurfaces

Madagascar President Marc Ravalomanana on 15 March 2009
Marc Ravalomanana handed power to the military last week

The ousted Madagascar President Marc Ravalomanana is in Swaziland for talks with the king, an official there said.

His whereabouts were unknown since he was forced from office a week ago by the military-backed young opposition leader Andry Rajoelina.

The African Union has suspended Madagascar over the "unconstitutional" change of government and threatened to impose sanctions.

It is not known how long Mr Ravalomanana plans to be in Swaziland.

Clifford Mamba, permanent secretary of the Swazi foreign ministry, said the ousted leader had met King Mswati III.

'Illegal regime'

Mr Mamba told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme: "His [The king's] view is that the regime is illegal in Madagascar and that we should find ways and means of putting the president back in his rightful place."

Pro-Ravalomanana demonstrators in Antananarivo on 23 March 2009

Mr Mamba said the ousted leader was accompanied only by one or two trusted advisors and looked in "fairly reasonable form", but had not requested asylum from Swaziland.

Mr Ravalomanana's arrival in the country comes ahead of a meeting of regional leaders from the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) in South Africa next Monday.

Swaziland, along with Mozambique and Angola, make up the defence, political and security divisions of the 15-nation body.

The three are recommending tougher sanctions against the new administration in Madagascar at the forthcoming Sadc summit.

If adopted, the measures would spell growing isolation for Mr Rajoelina, the 34-year-old new president.

His assumption of leadership in Madagascar has been criticised by the UN, EU and US, among others.

He also faces street protests by supporters of the ousted leader in the Malagasy capital Antananarivo.

Several thousand Madagascans on Tuesday demonstrated for a second consecutive day against Mr Rajoelina.

Mr Rajoelina - who accused Mr Ravalomanana of misspending funds and undermining democracy - has promised new elections within two years, after a new constitution is adopted.

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