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August 10, 2009

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Power share in Madagascar

MADAGASCAR'S feuding leaders said yesterday that they had agreed a power-sharing deal and would hold elections on the giant Indian Ocean island within 15 months.

A communique issued after talks in Mozambique's capital said a national unity government - comprised of a prime minister, three deputy first ministers and 28 members - would be set up.

"They agreed the transition period will not exceed 15 months ... and will end with elections under international supervision that will lead to the restoration of democratic institutions and stability in Madagascar," the statement said.

The deal was struck late on Saturday. Talks were continuing to discuss the composition of the power-sharing administration.

Former President Marc Ravalomanana, who was toppled in March by his army-backed rival Andry Rajoelina, said he would return to Madagascar but not personally take part in the process.

The agreement also included a section canceling charges of abuse of office leveled against Ravalomanana after his departure related to the purchase of a presidential jet.

"I solemnly declare my total availability to help resolve this crisis," the ousted leader told reporters after days of talks in Maputo. "The Ravalomanana movement will be an integral part of the transition bodies."

The discussions were the first time he and Rajoelina had met face to face since the coup. Madagascar's political crisis alarmed foreign investors, scared away tourists and cut economic growth. Rajoelina has been shunned by many nations and Ravalomanana, living in exile in South Africa, has insisted he is still the legitimate leader.


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