Madagascar military coup stalls

AN ATTEMPT by a handful of dissident troops to take over the government of Madagascar appeared to be foundering last night, but their rebellion increased pressure on President Andry Rajoelina to step down.

A 20-strong group of officers announced on Wednesday they had dissolved government institutions and set up a military council to run the country. But by yesterday afternoon no further actions had been taken and they had not seized the presidential palace as promised.

One military chief, General Andrianazary, said talks between the military and the rebels were going on but that these were not negotiations. "We are asking them not to use their arms, to avoid any clashes," he said.

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The rebel ringleader, Colonel Charles Andrianasoavina, dismissed reports they were in talks with the government to negotiate a peaceful resolution.

"There are no negotiations. It isn't us who will make the first steps," he said.

The unrest underscores the internal divisions plaguing the army since Mr Rajoelina drove former leader Marc Ravalomanana into exile last year, political commentators said.

It was not immediately clear whether the armed forces would readily launch an assault on the dissidents and risk a bloody confrontation that could permanently split the military.