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Madagascar’s exiled leader confident on safe return home

Madagascar’s ousted leader Marc Ravalomanana said Saturday he was confident that he would not be arrested upon his return home, as he checked in for a flight to end his three-year exile.

“I have just discussed with the prime minister. He said everything was OK,” Ravalomanana told reporters at the Johannesburg airport, as he checked in for the three-hour flight to Antananarivo.

Prime Minister Omer Beriziky took office in November, heading a government that was agreed by consensus among Madagascar’s main political parties, under a regionally brokered roadmap meant to steer the vast island nation toward elections this year.

Andry Rajoelina, who ousted Ravalomanana in an army-backed coup in March 2009, remains the head of state but has failed to win international recognition, leaving the impoverished state in a crippling political deadlock.

Security forces said Ravalomanana would be arrested if he went home, where he was sentenced to life in prison and hard labour for the death of 30 opposition protesters killed by his presidential guard in February 2009.

He is expected to land around 2:00 pm (1100 GMT) in Madagascar, where the capital’s security chief warned that he would be arrested. General Richard Ravalomanana said security forces were also prepared for protests and possible looting in the city.