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Madagascar talks end

26 July 2012, 12:53

Victoria - Madagascan leader Andry Rajoelina and the man he toppled in 2009, rival Marc Ravalomanana, have left the Seychelles after talks it was hoped would end a bitter dispute, officials said on Thursday.

Rajoelina and Ravalomanana "have left the Seychelles this morning" said Amanda Hunt, from Seychelles foreign ministry.

The talks were aimed at achieving a breakthrough in reconciliation efforts.

However, government and civil aviation officials on Wednesday said Rajoelina had already left, ending the talks just hours after the meeting began.

Few details about the talks have filtered out, but Rajoelina is due to talk the press in the Madagascan capital Antananarivo later on Thursday.

The pair met for several hours on Desroches Island, a private beach paradise about 230km from Mahe, the Indian Ocean archipelago's main island.

South African President Jacob Zuma was present to mediate.

The 15-nation Southern African Development Community, which mediated the talks, has set a 31 July deadline for the rivals to settle their differences, so a timetable for elections can be unveiled next week.

The Indian Ocean island of Madagascar has been mired in political crisis since Rajoelina ousted Ravalomanana in March 2009 with the army's support.

Rajoelina, a former disc jockey, was only 34 when he seized power. He had to change the constitution to become eligible for the top job in future polls.

But he has failed to garner broad international backing.

Although Rajoelina and Ravalomanana last year signed a "roadmap" toward elections, the deal has yet to be fully implemented.

The two men have already held talks among the country's main political groups since the overthrow of Ravalomanana by Rajoelina, a former mayor of the capital Antananarivo. But they had previously avoided a one-on-one meeting.

Their subordinates have inked several pacts but have yet to find a permanent solution to the three-year crisis engulfing Africa's largest island.



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