Madagascar opposition ca lls for president’s arrest

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Madagascar’s opposition leader Andry Rajoelina called on Monday for the security forces to arrest President Marc Ravalomanana so he could take power in the Indian Ocean island.
The opposition had earlier rejected an offer from Ravalomanana to hold a referendum to resolve the political crisis in which at least 135 people have been killed, Reuters reports.
“I ask the army and police and all those who can to carry out the minister of justice’s demand, because Andry Rajoelina is impatient to get into office,” he told a rally in the capital.
Christine Razanamahasoa, who has been appointed minister of justice in Rajoelina’s parallel administration, had earlier told the rally she was ordering prosecutors to arrest the president.
Raising tensions in the crisis, explosions were heard before dawn near the presidential palace. Witnesses and officials spoke of two or three blasts about a mile from the palace.
But there was no indication they represented an attack on Ravalomanana, who is hunkered down in the whitewashed colonial-era chateau, with supporters milling round outside vowing to repel any opposition assault.
“There were two loud explosions at around 3 a.m., but I don’t know where they came from. They were strong enough to shake the house,” resident Solanje Rasoamanana said.
A presidential guard colonel told Reuters three shells were fired, landing on a bypass near the palace. .
This was to intimidate the mass of supporters,” he said.
A statement read out on Radio Mada, owned by the president, said five vehicles with masked men inside were seen leaving after the explosions.
Rajoelina, 34, a former disc jockey who was sacked as Antananarivo’s mayor last month, says Ravalomanana is an autocrat running the island like a private company.
The president’s supporters call Rajoelina a maverick and troublemaker bent on seizing power illegally.
A spokesman for the army, which has leaned away from Ravalomanana but not definitively allied with Rajoelina, said Monday’s pre-dawn blasts had nothing to do with them.
The African Union was holding an emergency meeting on Madagascar on Monday. It is urging dialogue.
The United Nations has sent Tiebile Drame, Mali’s former foreign minister, to mediate on its behalf.
“The way out of this crisis lies with the Malagasy people,” he told Reuters. “Madagascar has to turn its back on the cycle of violence. The only possible way of reaching a solution is through dialogue and democracy.”