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Madagascar Rivals Meet Face-to-Face in Dakar - 2002-04-17


Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade and three other African leaders have been trying to mediate an end to Madagascar's political crisis, as the two rival leaders attended talks in Dakar Wednesday.

A hoped breakthrough may be on the horizon, as Madagascar's two rival leaders are meeting face to face in Dakar late Wednesday. This is the first time the two have sat down together in the same room for over two months.

The talks, attended by high-level delegations from the U.N. and the OAU, are aimed at ending the island nation's crisis.

Internationally-recognized president, Didier Ratsiraka, and self-proclaimed head of state, Marc Ravalomanana, have been holding separate meetings since Tuesday night in Dakar with the presidents of Senegal, Ivory Coast, Benin and Mozambique.

Observers say that the two men do not appear to have shifted their firmly held positions, and the mediation will be a laborious process.

However, others say it is unlikely both leaders would have travelled across Africa without the hope of achieving something new. So far, no clear outcome has emerged.

Madagascar has been in turmoil since Marc Ravolamana, mayor of Antanarivo, declared himself the victor on February 22. He denounced vote-rigging by President Ratsiraka's supporters during the first round of presidential elections in December.

An initially peaceful stand-off recently turned violent. The first bloody conflicts broke out last week between two army factions, loyal to each leader.

By inviting the two protagonists to talks in Dakar, President Wade said he hoped African leaders might avert a crisis in Madagascar which could otherwise end in civil war.

Back in Antanarivo, Madagascar's Supreme Court has annulled the officially proclaimed results of the disputed presidential elections.

It says the results will now be decided by a Constitutional High Court, following a recount of ballot papers. However, many papers have been spoiled, and there are queries about the legality of this process.

Out of the nine high court members, five are known to favor Mr. Ratsiraka. The remaining four are considered pro-Ravalomanana.

Although there is no set deadline for the ongoing talks in Dakar, the two leaders are due to fly out of Senegal, back to Madagascar, on Thursday.

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