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Army holds attack on presidential hiding place to avoid bloodshed

Video by Luke BROWN

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-03-17

The Madagascar army has told FRANCE 24 that it will not storm the palace where President Marc Ravalomanana has taken refuge, to avoid bloodshed. The president refuses to resign and has said he was ready to die along with his guards.

Madagascar’s President Marc Ravalomanana refused to yield power on Tuesday, saying he was determined to fight to his death.

 

At least 100 soldiers backed by tanks stormed the presidential palace in the capital Antananarivo late Monday and seized the country’s central bank in a symbolic assault against the president. Ravalomanana was not inside the building during the assault.

 

 “The army that took control of the presidential palace last night has so far been met with no resistance,” FRANCE 24’s special correspondent Cyril Vanier reported from outside the palace.

 

Tanks and scores of soldiers were deployed outside the presidential buildings on Tuesday. Schools and offices remained open despite the looming threat of violence.

 

Guarded by a few loyalist guards, Ravalomanana sought refuge in another presidential residence, 12 kilometers outside the capital Antananarivo.

 

Hundreds of his supporters formed human chains on roads outside the palace, in a bid to protect their leader.

 

The army told FRANCE 24 it would not storm the presidential palace where Ravalomanana is holed up unless it has assurances that it’s empty. “The army does not want bloodshed nor does it want to kill any civilians. They want to seize the palace without firing a shot,” Vanier said.

“Attempted coup d’état"

 The African Union convened an emergency meeting Monday, over the crisis and warned it would condemn any unconstitutional change of power.

The AU said the opposition’s push to remove the president was an attempted coup d'etat and called on the people of the Indian Ocean island to respect their constitution.

President Ravalomanana discussed military support with both the United Nations and South African states, his spokesman said on Monday.

“No referendum”


Earlier on Monday, Rajoelina rejected Ravalomanana's offer to hold a referendum to solve the political stand-off.

"The referendum is already done. The people have already expressed themselves. There is no need to hold a referendum," he told national television prior to an opposition rally. "The resignation of Ravalomanana is the solution."

The embattled president had on Sunday dismissed rival Rajoelina’s call to quit office, saying he would face a referendum if necessary.

The bitter power struggle between President Ravalomanana and former Antananarivo mayor Rajoelina have led to days of street protests in the past three months, killing more than 130 people.


 

Date created : 2009-03-17

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