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Madagascar Parties, President Sign Deal on Elections

Madagascar President Andry Rojoelina has signed an agreement with least 90 minor political parties settings dates for a constitutional referendum, and parliamentary and presidential elections.

The agreement was signed in a ceremony in the capital Antananarivo late Friday. The signatories included representatives of three former presidents, including Marc Ravalomanana, the man Rojoelina ousted in a coup last year.

Under the agreement, a referendum on a new constitution will be held November 17. The referendum, seen as a key step in ending the country's political crisis, had been scheduled for this week, but election officials said the new document had not been finalized .

Friday's agreement also calls for parliamentary elections to be held on March 16, 2011, and presidential elections to be held on May 4, 2011, with Rojoelina remaining in power until a new president is elected.

The signatory political parties will determine candidates for the post of prime minister.

Madagascar has been in political turmoil since March 2009 when Mr. Rajoelina toppled President Ravalomanana with the support of the military.

The African Union has refused to recognize Mr. Rajoelina as president of the Indian Ocean island nation.

International mediators have brokered several deals that envision power sharing between Mr. Rajoelina and three of the country's former leaders. The deals have all collapsed because the four could not agree on how to divide the top posts.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.