Madagascar to hunt down exiled leader

23 January 2012 - 02:17 By Sapa-AP
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After blocking an attempt by Madagascar's exiled president to fly to the Indian Ocean island, the man who ousted him says he wants to send a plane to South Africa to pick him up and bring him home to be arrested.

South Africa, which has hosted Marc Ravalomanana and been trying to mediate between him and his rival, Andry Rajoelina, is unlikely to agree to that.

Rajoelina toppled Ravalomanana in 2009 and now leads a unity government charged with preparing for elections next year. Saturday's events raise questions about whether Madagascar's factions are ready to move forward.

Rajoelina said authorities were determined to arrest Ravalomanana after a court last year convicted him in absentia of conspiracy to commit murder in a case related to the turmoil during the coup that forced him to leave. Ravalomanana called the tribunal illegitimate.

Early on Saturday, Ravalomanana, his wife, aides, journalists and several ordinary passengers boarded a commercial flight from South Africa to Antananarivo, Madagascar's capital. Four hours later, after having turned around mid-flight, the plane was back in Johannesburg.

The presidency said the airport was closed because of security concerns after large crowds of Ravalomanana's supporters gathered there.

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