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US, Madagascar Resume Normal Business - 2002-06-26

The State Department says the United States has decided to conduct normal business with the government of Madagascar's court-recognized president Marc Ravalomanana. It is also releasing currency reserves of Madagascar in the United States which were ordered frozen after the country's disputed elections last December.

Madagascar has been torn by unrest since the December election, disputed by Mr. Ravalomanana and former President Didier Ratsiraka. At a briefing, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the U.S. decision was based on a late-April ruling by the country's High Constitutional Court declaring Mr. Ravalomanana, the former mayor of the capital, Anatanarivo, the winner following a vote recount.

He said the United States' goal all along has been to help the people of Madagascar resolve the crisis in a democratic and transparent way and avoid civil war. He said he hopes the decision by the Bush administration will contribute to a restoration of political peace in the country. "We believe that accepting Mr. Ravalomanana as president will now prevent additional violence, will speed an end to Madagascar's political crisis, and help the government of Madagascar get back on its feet," Working with Mr. Ravalomanana is consistent with our democratic principles, supports the rule of law, and fosters regional stability," he said.

Spokesman Boucher said Secretary of State Colin Powell has signed orders restoring access by Madagascar authorities to the country's funds held at the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank in New York. The money had been frozen after the election to prevent unauthorized access to the account.

Mr. Boucher also expressed appreciation for efforts by the Organization of African Unity and African heads of state, in particular Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, who have worked to solve Madagascar's political crisis.

Former President Ratsiraka, who recently left the country for France, continues to claim the presidency despite the high court decision.

The OAU, for its part, has called for new presidential elections and says Madagascar's seat within the organization will remain unoccupied.

The U.S. ambassador to Madagascar, Wanda Nesbitt, delivered a letter to Mr. Ravalomanana Wednesday from President Bush and attended ceremonies marking the country's 42nd anniversary of independence from France.