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Jittery Madagascar army combs airport for ex-president

Heavily armed troops in Madagascar combed the international airport in the capital Antananarivo for ousted president Marc Ravalomanana, fearing that he is planning to try to slip back into the country, local media reported on Thursday.

The alarm was raised on Wednesday, when the passenger list for a flight arriving from the neighbouring Indian Ocean island of Mauritius went missing, Malaza daily newspaper reported.

Apparently fearing that Ravalomanana might be attempting to return to the island, two months after being ousted by the opposition with military backing, a few hundred soldiers fanned out across Ivato airport, including the runway, in wait for the Mauritius flight.

The soldiers searched the luggage of passengers on the flight and questioned them, apparently trying to identify possible Ravalomanana accomplices. No incriminating material was found.

The administration of embattled interim president Andry Rajoelina is appearing increasingly jittery as pressure grows on the 34-year-old leader to end months of instability by holding inclusive elections.

So far, the international community has refused to recognise Rajoelina as leader, saying his arrival to power through a campaign of street protests and with the help of mutinous troops, was tantamount to a coup.

Ravalomanana had been democratically re-elected to a second term in 2006, but lost support over the army’s violent crackdown on demonstrations.

The United Nations announced late last week a breakthrough in talks between the parties of the island’s three ex-presidents and Rajoelina on the holding of fresh elections.

But former dictator Didier Ratsiraka, who is in exile in France, later pulled out, saying peaceful elections were not possible in the current climate.

Rajoelina poured more cold water on the prospect for a speedy resolution to the crisis this week, saying Ravalomanana would not be allowed to return to the island to stand for re-election.

Former Antananarivo mayor Rajoelina has announced plans to visit Paris, where his children live and he has citizenship, as well as Senegal and New York, in the coming days. In New York, he plans to attend a summit of poor countries in early June. — Sapa-dpa

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