/ 4 September 2009

UN urges Madagascar leaders to respect deal

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called on Madagascar’s leaders to stick to a power-sharing deal struck last month after the opposition called on the army to take the top three posts of a unity government.

The country’s power-brokers have failed to agree on who should lead a consensus government that would be given the task of restoring constitutional order on the oil- and mineral-endowed Indian Ocean island after months of political instability.

”There is no alternative to a political agreement and a consensual transition,” Ban said in a written statement released late on Thursday.

The UN chief called on all parties and Madagascar’s 20-million people to remain calm and allow for a peaceful resolution.

Andry Rajoelina, who ousted former leader Marc Ravalomanana in a March coup, has up to now remained adamant that his party retains the presidency and the prime minister’s office.

Last week in Maputo at a second round of power-sharing talks, Ravalomanana rejected outright the former DJ’s nomination.

The three opposition movements called on Thursday on the military to occupy the posts of president, vice-president and prime minister.

Under the proposal, the four delegations led by Rajoelina, Ravalomanana and former presidents Didier Ratsiraka and Albert Zafy would make the military nominations.

”This for us is the best way to resolve the crisis. We could have a joint military-civilian government,” said Zafy.

Rajoelina, who is expected to tell mediators on Friday whether he will concede the prime minister’s office, has not responded to the idea.

The 35-year-old led weeks of street protests earlier this year, accusing Ravalomanana of being a dictator and toppled him with the help of a dissident army faction.

The international community broadly condemned the power-grab. The African Union (AU) and Southern African Development Community (SADC) suspended Madagascar and some donors cut aid worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Ban said the UN was ”ready to support the implementation of the Maputo agreements and stand by the Malagasy people as the country returns to normalcy”.

The armed forces are expected to make clear their position later on Friday. — Reuters