Madagascar government row strands politicians

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- Stopped from boarding flight in South Africa

- President has said power-sharing talks are dead

By Richard Lough

ANTANANARIVO, Dec 12 (Reuters) - Madagascar's president once again on Saturday blocked opposition leaders from flying back to the Indian Ocean island in a standoff over the formation of a new government.

Foreign donors say time is running out for the island of about 20 million people to form a consensus administration to arrange fresh presidential elections before late 2010 -- a condition placed on the release of frozen donor aid worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

President Andry Rajoelina, who seized power in a March coup, has said there will be no more talks with his political rivals after they shook hands on the make-up of a unity government without him in Maputo earlier this week.

The president stopped planes from Madagascar flying to Mozambique's capital to collect the opposition figures, so one of the politicians said they had tried to get home by taking a commercial flight via South Africa.

"We were turned around at the boarding gate," Mamy Rakotoarivelo, who was named speaker of the transitional parliament last month, told Reuters by phone from Johannesburg.

The opposition's resolution to push ahead with setting up a consensus government provoked a furious response from Rajoelina, 35, who denounced the move as tantamount to a coup d'etat.

Asked if he had issued the order preventing the officials from boarding the aircraft in South Africa, Madagascar's Internal Security Minister Organes Rakotomihantari said he had.

"Yes I did ... It is my duty to guarantee the internal security of the country," he told Reuters in Antananarivo.

Since August, international mediators have brokered a string of deals aimed at sharing power among the feuding leaders and ending a year of political turmoil and economic instability.

The crisis has created uncertainty for foreign investors like miners Sherritt International and Rio Tinto and oil firms Total and Exxon Mobil.

(Additional reporting by Alain Iloniaina; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Michael Roddy)

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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