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Madagascar : Rival Government - 2002-02-27

The chief of Madagascar's opposition movement has named a rival cabinet, stepping up a campaign to remove President Didier Ratsiraka from office amid an ongoing electoral dispute.

Marc Ravalomanana introduced his 17-member team to reporters Friday in front of city hall in Antananarivo, the capital.

Meanwhile, his supporters demonstrated in the streets, despite Thursday's declaration of martial law by President Ratsiraka.

President Ratsiraka told reporters he took the action reluctantly because of general strikes and violent protests in the capital. He has appointed a military governor to deal with the crisis and says the military will be responsible for restoring peace.

The opposition leader says he won the December 16th election outright and is refusing to take part in a run-off against the president scheduled for March 24th.

On Wednesday, the government imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew after pro-government demonstrators and opposition supporters clashed in Antananarivo over the results of the presidential election. More than ten people were injured in Wednesday's clashes.

Since the December vote, Madagascar has been gripped by weeks of opposition protests and a crippling general strike.

In Washington, the State Department has warned U-S citizens traveling to, or residing in, Madagascar to avoid the downtown area of the capital and to limit their movements within the city.

Also Wednesday, the U-N Security Council called on both sides in Madagascar's crisis to seek a political solution.