Page last updated at 14:13 GMT, Monday, 20 April 2009 15:13 UK

Madagascar ex-leader 'to return'

Madagascar President Marc Ravalomanana gives a speech in Antananarivo on 15 March 2009
Marc Ravalomanana went into exile in Swaziland after he was ousted

Ousted Madagascar President Marc Ravalomanana has said he intends to return to the Indian Ocean island in the next few weeks.

Mr Ravalomanana said he wanted to form an inclusive government and hold a presidential polls by the end of year.

He did not rule out the idea of working with his military-backed rival, Andry Rajoelina, who forced him from power in March after months of street protests.

Mr Rajoelina last week issued an arrest warrant for Mr Ravalomanana.

The international community has condemned Mr Rajoelina's action as a coup.

Madagascar has been suspended from the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (Sadc).

"I'll be back in Madagascar in a few weeks and the plan is to have anticipated [early] elections or a referendum before the end of the year. That is the only way out of the crisis," the former president told a news conference in Johannesburg, reported Reuters news agency.

"I don't want to have bloodshed in Madagascar. I'm not afraid to be arrested [when I go back]. I trust Sadc and the AU will help me to return to Madagascar," he said.

Mr Ravalomanana also said he would be willing to share power with Mr Rajoelina, but only if his rival was "committed to follow the rule of law".

Madagascan interim President Andry Rajoelina in Antananarivo on 27 March 2009
Marc Rajoelina has pledged a presidential poll in October 2010

Last week, the ex-president, a self-made dairy tycoon, said he was planning to return to Madagascar but did not hint at a timeline.

He also announced the nomination of a new prime minister, which was rejected by Madagascar's new government.

In the capital Antananarivo, thousands of Mr Ravalomanana's supporters have been holding protests almost daily.

Former disc jockey Mr Rajoelina has pledged a presidential election in October 2010 to restore democracy.

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