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Madagascar crisis deal possible Saturday

MAPUTO, Aug 8 – An accord on ending the political crisis in Madagascar leading to fresh presidential elections in the island nation could be signed on Saturday, a mediators in talks said.

"We’re not far from an end to the crisis," African Union mediator Ablasse Ouedraogo said following talks late Friday in the Mozambican capital on a political transition charter.

The island nation has become increasingly isolated since Marc Ravalomanana was ousted in March following demonstrations in which more than 100 people were killed.

Ravalomanana and interim leader Andry Rajoelina are both in Maputo for the negotiations, with previous efforts to resolve the crisis foundering on a political transition charter.

Ouedraogo said talks on the details of the charter would resume Saturday morning.

He said the charter plus an agreement initially reached on June 15 should both be signed, resulting in a model for how the state will function during the transition to constitutional order.

"So we have a roadmap for the transition … which should result in a presidential election in 10 months," Ouedraogo said.

Talks were set to resume at 10 am (0800 GMT) to discuss the leadership of the transition and distribution of posts in the transition administration, said some participants.

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Former leaders Didier Ratsiraka and Albert Zafy, who are still considered power-brokers in Madagascar, were also optimistic on a deal being signed on Saturday.

"The charter will be finished tomorrow (Saturday)," Ratsiraka told AFP.

The question of the return of Ravalomanana, who has been in exile in South Africa since being ousted from power, has yet to be resolved.

Ravalomanana was convicted in absentia of "conflict of interest" in the purchase of a presidential airplane and sentenced to four years in prison in June, and there has been discussion of an amnesty that would allow him to return and participate in elections.

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