Breakdown Looms in Madagascar Political Talks
Breakdown Looms in Madagascar Political Talks
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Madagascar's main political movements have extended talks in Addis Ababa aimed at patching over bitter rivalries preventing the formation of a transitional government. The outlook is uncertain, with feuding factions seemingly unwilling to compromise.

The prospect of failure loomed Friday as negotiations aimed at breaking Madagascar's political deadlock went into overtime. Three days of talks had been scheduled, but day three ended in the early hours of Friday with no progress and harsh words suggesting a deal might be out of reach.

The country's de facto president, Andry Rajoelina stormed out of the session saying it was impossible to continue.

Sources close to the talks say rival factions are refusing to budge on the main issue, the composition of a transitional government.

As the meetings dragged into the late evening Thursday, Mr. Rajoelina was in no mood for compromise. Speaking to VOA in French through a translator, he accused his rival, ousted president Mark Ravalomanana of reneging on commitments he had made in earlier rounds of talks.

He says when it comes to international negotiations, one cannot go back on what has been accepted and validated. In fact, he says, they are not surprised that Ravalomanana has reneged, because he has done that before.

Mr. Ravalomanana refused to debate the matter. He was quoted earlier as saying he would not negotiate further unless Mr. Rajoelina agreed to step down. In a hallway encounter Thursday, he told VOA he would prefer to withhold comment until the conclusion of the talks.

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Q: Mr. Ravalomanana, are you willing to say anything to the press?
A: Not yet. Straightaway. Let me finish it first and then I will say it. Save it for tomorrow.

Mr. Rajoelina ousted President Ravalomanana last March with the help of Madagascar's military. But the ouster was declared illegitimate by many in the international community, leading to Madagascar's suspension from the African Union and the 15-member Southern African Development Community.

An agreement reached last month among the country's four main parties would have allowed Mr. Rajoelina to keep the position of president in a transitional government if he agreed not to run in elections next year. But Mr. Ravalomanana told reporters before the current round began that he would not negotiate unless Mr. Rajoelina stepped aside.

Under Madagascar's current constitution, the 35-year-old Mr. Rajoelina is too young to seek the presidency.

The Addis Ababa talks opened Tuesday with a warning to the rival parties about the damage their feud is doing to Madagascar's economy. African Union Commission Chairman Jean Ping told leaders of the island nation's four main political movements they would be harshly judged if they fail to find a compromise that leads to fresh elections next year.