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Madagascar Opposition, President Agree to Reduce Tensions


Madagascar's opposition leader Andry Rajoelina and President Marc Ravalomanana have agreed to work toward reducing tensions in the nation.

Following a brief meeting Saturday, the two men committed themselves to ending provocative statements to the media, halting demonstrations and ending political arrests. They also pledged to put a stop to looting and other violence.

Saturday's meeting in the capital Antananarivo - mediated by church leaders - was the first between the opposition leader and the president since Madagascar's political crisis began last month. Reports said they might meet again early next week.

Madagascar has endured weeks of turmoil since Rajoelina began an effort to oust Mr. Ravalomanana. Rajoelina accuses the president of being too authoritarian.

On Friday, Madagascar security forces regained control of four government ministry offices that opposition supporters had taken over Thursday.

Police officials say 50 people were arrested during Friday's operation

Rajoelina has declared himself the country's new leader and has vowed to take over the government.

President Ravalomanana says he remains in charge of the island nation's affairs.

More than 100 people have been killed in demonstrations since the turmoil began. That number includes 28 killed February 7, when presidential guards fired on protesters who were marching toward the presidential palace.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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