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US Suspends Non-Humanitarian Aid to Madagascar


The United States says it will suspend non-humanitarian aid to Madagascar, saying this week's change in government there was tantamount to a coup d'etat.

U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Wood announced the decision Friday. It is unclear how much aid in terms of U.S. dollars would be involved.

The U.S. decision follows similar responses by regional African groups after Andry Rajoelina claimed the presidency of the island nation this week.

The African Union suspended Madagascar's membership, and the South African Development Community (SADC) is calling for sanctions on its leaders.

The AU took the action Friday, also calling the government takeover a coup.

Earlier Friday, the SADC said it will recommend sanctions against the coup leaders when the organization meets later this month.

The group said it will not recognize Mr. Rajoelina as Madagascar's new president, saying his takeover was unconstitutional.

The group said it will send its executive secretary, Tomaz Salomao, to Madagascar to meet with leaders there.

Madagascar is a member of both the AU and the SADC.

Meanwhile, Madagascar's new prime minister, Monja Roindefo, is denying the takeover was a coup.

In an interview with the French news agency, AFP, Roindefo said it was a "direct expression of democracy, when representative democracy does not express itself through the institutions."

Mr. Rajoelina took power this week after protests and a loss of military support forced President Marc Ravalomanana to resign.

Mr. Rajoelina has said he will hold elections within 24 months - a timeframe that former colonial power France has criticized as too long.

The new president is a former disc jockey and mayor of the capital, Antananarivo. At 34, he is technically six years too young for the presidency under Madagascar's constitution.


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

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