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President pledges to restore 'peace and security'

Latest update : 2009-03-15

President Marc Ravalomanana (pictured) of Madagascar vowed to restore peace in his country as his premier met with opposition leader Andry Rajoelina, who has been spearheading anti-government protests since January.

AFP - President Marc Ravalomanana Thursday pledged to work to restore peace in Madagascar as his premier met with the  opposition, which claimed a peaceful handover of power was imminent.

Ravalomanana addressed a cabinet meeting a day after the army sacked a military chief who threatened a coup if the political leaders failed to resolve the unrest which erupted in late January.

The president stressed "once more... that the priority now was to restore peace and security," a statement said, adding that he expressed willingness to listen to all parties and urged citizens to participate in upcoming crisis talks.

Prime Minister Charles Charles Rabemananjara on Thursday met with the so-called "prime minister" of opposition chief Andry Rajoelina, the sacked mayor of the capital Antananarivo, who has been spearheading anti-government protests since January, which have claimed more than 100 lives.

"The meeting between the two parties was cordial and held amid mutual respect," an opposition communique said.

It said Prime Minister Rabemananjara and the opposition's Roindefo Zafitsimivalo Monja discussed a "lawful, peaceful transfer of power at the soonest."

The meeting between the two men was confirmed by the prime minister's office but it refused to comment on the claims of a power transfer.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Thursday urged the rival parties to resolve their differences peacefully and form a unity government.

"He reiterates that the only solution to the current crisis is the resumption of dialogue, and calls on both parties to fulfill their commitment to resolve their differences within the framework of an inclusive national conference," Ban's press office said.

Amid mounting confusion in the Indian Ocean island, the country's security forces said they would work in tandem to end the months-old political crisis, which has seen top ministers resign, only to return.

Earlier Thursday, hundreds demonstrated outside Ravalomanana's offices in the capital but the protest ended peacefully.

A previous attempt last month to march on Ravalomanana's office ended with security forces opening fire on opposition protesters, killing 28 and drawing international condemnation.

The clampdown on protesters prompted soldiers at a key Antananarivo barracks to declare at the weekend that they would not take orders to put down opposition demonstratations.

The political impasse had led the former army chief to threaten Tuesday that the military would take over the running of the state if the feuding leaders failed to resolve the crisis.

However, he was sacked within hours and the coup threat reversed by his successor.

"We will work with the new army chief and the national police to resolve the crisis... because (all) the armed forces is one unit," police chief Gilbain Pily told reporters Thursday.

Meanwhile, Mamy Ranaivoniarivo, the country's defence chief who announced his resignation this week, said Thursday he had reversed his decision.

Ranaivoniarivo stepped down Tuesday after a military council demanded his resignation denouncing "violence carried out against the population."

Opposition leader Rajoelina accuses the president of running a dictatorship and has repeatedly called for his ouster, but Ravalomana has vowed to stay on until the end of his term in 2011.

Date created : 2009-03-12