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Talks Resume on Madagascar Crisis

Talks aimed at ending the year-long crisis in Madagascar have resumed in South Africa. The parties reportedly have given themselves a final 24 hours to reach an accord.

The talks entered their third day Friday as the four parties tried to hammer out a deal that would create a power sharing government.

The transitional government, under a roadmap proposed by South Africa and France, would organize legislative elections this year and a presidential vote by next year.

Madagascar has been suspended from the African Union and the Southern African Development Community since its current leader, Andry Rajoelina took power, backed by the military, following the resignation of then-President Marc Ravalomanana.

The chief mediator, Mozambique's former President Joaquim Chissano, told reporters after the talks broke off late Thursday night that he was still hopeful a deal would be struck.

Mr. Ravalomanana said he was optimistic. Two other former presidents taking part in the talks declined to comment.

But Mr. Rajoelina accused the other parties of blocking progress.

He says our goal, and the goal of the Malagasy people, is to go straight to elections and that is why we came to South Africa.

He said the parties did not come to negotiate but rather to finalize an agreement drawn up by the international community. But he said the former heads-of-state are playing a game to set up never-ending negotiations.

The parties reportedly disagree over details of the proposed elections. Mr. Rajoelina also is reportedly opposed to an amnesty proposed by Mr. Ravalomanana. The former president last year was sentenced to prison for abuse of power.

Madagascar's crisis erupted in December 2008 when then-president Ravalomanana closed down a radio station owned by Mr. Rajoelina, a former mayor of Antananarivo.

This led to demonstrations that frequently were crushed violently by security forces. The confrontation came to a head when Mr. Ravalomanana's presidential guard fired on demonstrators marching on the palace, killing 31.

Mr. Ravalomanana resigned in March of last year. He handed power to the military, which passed it to Mr. Rajoelina. The 36 year-old politician, who is too young to be head-of-state under the current constitution, formed a transitional authority with himself as its president.

But the new government was rejected as a coup d'etat by SADC and the AU. Anti-government demonstrations resumed which frequently were violently repressed by the new authorities.

Months of negotiations mediated by SADC and the AU led to a power sharing accord between Mr. Rajoelina and the three former presidents. They were tasked with forming a power sharing government and organizing elections.

But Mr. Rajoelina rejected the accord in December after the other groups began distributing ministerial posts. He subsequently named a retired military officer as prime minister tasked with organizing elections this year.

The AU indicated such a vote would not be recognized and has threatened sanctions if Mr. Rajoelina carries out his plan.