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Talks in Dakar Fail to End Madagascar Crisis - 2002-06-10

Talks held in Dakar, Senegal, on ending Madagascar's political crisis concluded late Sunday with no agreement. African leaders serving as mediators at the gathering have put together a plan they hope will help ease tensions between rival factions on the island.

African leaders speaking at the end of the two-day meeting in Dakar say their plan on ending the Madagascar crisis is to be presented to the Organization of African Unity ahead of its upcoming summit in South Africa. The African leaders' plan is viewed as an effort to salvage the Madagascar peace effort after the two rivals - Marc Ravalomanana and Dider Ratsiraka - left the Dakar gathering without reaching an accord.

Mr. Ravalomanana and Mr. Ratsiraka have been locked in a crisis stemming from the December presidential elections, in which incumbent President Ratsiraka and challenger Ravalomanana both claimed victory.

The crisis has resulted in violent confrontations between followers of the two rivals.

Both men had met in Dakar once before in April and had signed an agreement to end the deadlock. The terms of that agreement were never met, and conditions continued to deteriorate in Madagascar, with heavy fighting reported on the island last week.

The African leaders' plan calls for legislative elections to be held in Madagascar by the end of the year, and for the establishment of a transitional government in which both rivals would have a say.

According to the plan, Mr. Ravalomanana would appoint the prime minister and Mr. Ratsiraka would designate some of the key ministers.

Mr. Ratsiraka and Mr. Ravalomanana left the meeting in Dakar Sunday without saying what they think of the plan.

Their host, Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, told reporters the two remain far apart on key issues. Mr. Wade said he sees no instant solution to the crisis, but he said some progress has been made now that a dialogue has at least gotten under way.