Wed, Jan 28, 2009 - Page 4 News List

Madagascan president wants talks with rival

AFP , ANTANANARIVO

Madagascan President Marc Ravalomanana yesterday called for talks with his main opponent, Antananarivo Mayor Andry Rajoelina, the day after anti-government protests turned violent.

“I call on people to calm down. We need to put aside our pride, our egos. We need to talk,” Ravalomanana said on private Radio Antsiva.

“There have already been some contacts,” he said, without elaborating.

Rajoelina for his part announced yesterday that he was suspending his anti-government protest campaign after a demonstrator was shot dead. There were no protests seen in the capital yesterday morning, a correspondent reported.

“We are suspending the movement today. Everyone should stay at home,” said Andry Rajoelina, who has called Ravalomanana’s government a dictatorship.

“There will be no discussions or dialogue today. First we must try the soldier who has killed one of my supporters,” he said on the same radio station.

The protester was reportedly shot in the head by guards on Monday in front of Ravalomanana’s private TV station, MBS, which along with the state radio building had been besieged by an angry mob. Looting was also reported.

Rajoelina has ratcheted up opposition to the government since last month, when it shut down his TV network Viva for broadcasting an interview with former president Didier Ratsiraka.

Ravalomanana, who had been due to attend a regional summit that began on Monday in Pretoria, flew back on Sunday night and accused the mayor of calling for a revolt.

Rajoelina, 34, ran against Ravalomanana’s party as an independent candidate in municipal elections in 2007 and since taking office has grown into the regime’s most vocal opponent.

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