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SADC Leaders Prepare to Meet on Madagascar, Zimbabwe

Southern African leaders are preparing to meet Monday in Swaziland to discuss an economic recovery plan for Zimbabwe and the recent change of government in Madagascar. We report from the summit site in Ezulwini, outside the capital, Mbanane.

Leaders of the 15-member Southern African Development Community are holding this special summit one week after Madagascar's opposition-leader Andry Rajoelina took over the government in a military-backed transfer of power.

This followed the resignation of then-President Marc Ravalomanana after weeks of strikes and demonstrations in which more than 100 people died.

South Africa Foreign Affairs Ministry Spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa said on national radio the crisis in Madagascar would be high on Monday's agenda.

"The SADC summit is expected to deliberate upon proposals to assist Madagasacar to return to democracy, the rule of law and constitutionality," said Ronnie Mamoepa.

SADC has criticized the transfer of power. The African Union has called the transfer a coup d'etat and has suspended Madagascar's membership.

Mr. Ravalomanana was in Swaziland last week, but reportedly left on Saturday for South Africa.

In Antananarivo more than 30 people were injured Saturday when police quelled a demonstration by the former president's supporters.

Mr. Ravalomanana told them in a telephone message to maintain the struggle against the transitional government and said he would return in the near future.

SADC announced the summit after Zimbabwe appealed for $2 billion in emergency aid to revive social services and stabilize its collapsing economy.

SADC leaders, who have invested a great deal of energy in negotiating the power-sharing government in Harare, are said to want to show support.

But they are also reluctant to provide funds in the current economic downturn, which has affected their own economies.

The International Monetary Fund ended a visit to Zimbabwe last week expressing support for the new government's efforts, but noting that Zimbabwe must first repay about $130 million in arrears on its debt with the Fund.

The African Development Bank has said Zimbabwe must repay nearly $500 million in arrears before it can provide any new loans.

An official with the Development Bank of Southern Africa last month said his institution could provide new loans to Zimbabwe. He indicated it had approximately $200 million.