Madagascar's President Marc Ravalomanana has appealed to the army to stay neutral in the nation's political crisis.
The president spoke on national radio Thursday, saying it was the priority of the government to restore law and order.  He called on the security forces to, in his words, fulfill their responsibilities and protect the people.

Rising tension between the president and opposition leader Andry Rajoelina has led to divisions within the army, which replaced its own chief of staff Wednesday.  

The U.S. embassy in Madagascar has urged Americans to consider leaving because of the instability.  An embassy statement late Wednesday said Americans should think about leaving while commercial airlines are still operating normally.

Meanwhile, peace talks between the president and opposition leader scheduled for Thursday were canceled, after Rajoelina refused to participate.

Rajoelina accuses the president of turning into a dictator and has repeatedly called for his resignation.  

The opposition leader has led weeks of anti-government protests, some of which turned violent and led to the deaths of more than 100 people.

His predecessor had warned on Tuesday of a military takeover unless the president and opposition leader resolved the country's political crisis.

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