Exiled Madagascar ex-president Ratsiraka says to return home

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Former Madagascar president Didier Ratsiraka is to return home Thursday, ending a nine-year exile in France after a unity government was formed in the crisis-hit Indian Ocean island nation.

"I confirm," Ratsiraka -- who ruled Madagascar from 1975 to 1991 and from 1996 to 2002 -- told AFP when asked if he would take a flight to Madagascar on Wednesday evening. He declined to provide further details of his plans.

"I cannot give an interview on French soil. Duty obliges. I will speak before my lawyer and my witnesses who are the Malagasy people," he said.

Ratsiraka, 75, has lived in France since 2002 and took part in talks to end the crisis that has riven Madagascar since 2009.

But he refused to sign the so-called roadmap to new elections put forward by mediators from the 15-member Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Most of the island's political players last month adopted a calendar to implement the roadmap.

However, Madagascar's opposition groups are split over the new unity government, with some members taking up posts and others rejecting the cabinet unveiled on Monday.

The 35-strong government headed by consensus Prime Minister Omer Beriziky emerged from an institutional crisis sparked by an army-backed coup in March 2009 that ousted Marc Ravalomanana.

Beriziky took office earlier this month, under the regime of Andry Rajoelina, a 37-year-old former disc jockey who became transitional president but failed to obtain international recognition, leaving the impoverished state in a crippling political deadlock.

Rajoelina has said several times recently that Ratsiraka is free to return to Madagascar.

© 2011 AFP

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