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Madagascar Opposition Meets in Antananarivo - 2002-03-26


Jacques Sylla, the head of one of Madagascar's rival governments, has outlined his administration's program before a group of opposition lawmakers in the capital, Antananarivo.

Mr. Sylla told about 60 members of parliament (Tuesday) he would enact free trade policies and reduce the government's role in the economy to help lift Madagsacar from crushing poverty. He also promised continued good relations with former colonial power France and other countries.

Only the minority block of lawmakers loyal to Mr. Sylla and to self-declared President Marc Ravalomanana attended Tuesday's speech. His supporters hold 60 of the assembly's 150 seats.

Members of parliament loyal to internationally recognized President Didier Ratsiraka boycotted the session.

A dispute over the results of last December's presidential election escalated into a bitter power struggle last month -- when Mr. Ravalomanana declared he had won the election outright and declared himself head of state.

Mr. Ravalomanana's supporters control the capital, while Mr. Ratsiraka continues to hold sway over the rest of the country.

(AP, AFP, Reuters)

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