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Ravalomanana's Party Suspends Role in Madagascar's Government

Former Madagascar leader Marc Ravalomanana and his wife Lalao (R) hold plane tickets after checking in at the O.R Tambo airport in Johannesburg, January 21, 2012.

The party of Madagascar's former president Marc Ravalomanana has suspended its role in the unity government after the plane carrying him home from exile was turned away.

A spokesman for the Ravalomanana movement says its members in the Cabinet and parliament will not participate in any meetings in protest against Saturday's rejection of the deposed leader.

On the flight back to Johannesburg, a spokesman for Ravalomanana said he still wants to return to his island homeland off Africa's southeastern coast.

Ravalomanana has spent the past three years in exile in South Africa.

The plane carrying the former leader was forced to return to Johannesburg after officials in Madagascar closed the country's air space.

Ravalomanana said he wanted to return home to launch a plan to restore democracy in the island nation. Security forces in Madagascar warned he would be arrested.

He had been sentenced in absentia to life in prison for the dozens of opposition protesters killed by his presidential guard in 2009, ahead of the coup that toppled him.

Last September, Ravalomanana agreed to a plan that allowed military-backed President Andry Rajoelina, the coup leader, to remain in power until elections are held.

Under the proposal, Ravalomanana would have been allowed to return to Madagascar, after an attempt early last year to fly home was also thwarted.

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