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Madagascar’s Ravalomanana Wants Ban on Return to Be Lifted

Madagascar’s exiled former president, Marc Ravalomanana, called on the African Union to force the government to lift restrictions on his return to the country, his political party said.

The ban on Ravalomanana and his family traveling to Madagascar should be removed immediately, it said yesterday in a statement from Antananarivo, the capital.

Madagascar’s government had threatened to bar Ravalomanana’s plane for the planned journey on Feb. 19 from landing if he was on board, the party said. Other attempts to travel to Madagascar were also blocked, it said.

Ravalomanana announced on Feb. 17 he was to go back to the Indian Ocean island nation after two years in exile in South Africa, even though the government threatened to arrest him on his arrival. He was ousted as president by Andry Rajoelina, the former mayor of Antananarivo, with the help of the military in 2009. The coup lead to the country’s suspension from the African Union and the Southern African Development Community.

Police used tear gas to remove about 5,000 supporters who had waited for Ravalomanana to travel along the road from the airport to Antananarivo after his expected arrival on Feb. 19, Defense Minister Lucien Rakotoarimasy said by phone today.

SADC negotiators proposed last month that Rajoelina remain as president of an interim administration until elections before November and that Ravalomanana should only return once security is ensured. Ravalomanana was last year sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment with hard labor for a February 2009 shooting by guards that killed protesters marching on the president’s office.

The mediators are due in Madagascar today to continue negotiations with parties on resolving the country’s political crisis, Peter Metcalf, the United Nations’ resident coordinator in Madagascar, said by phone.

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