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Madagascar troops storm president's house

March 16, 2009 at 3:55 PM

ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar, March 16 (UPI) -- The Madagascar army stormed a residence of President Marc Ravalomanana Monday, hours after an opposition leader called for his arrest, witnesses said.

Explosions and gunfire were heard in the capital of Antananarivo after the president proposed a referendum to resolve the country's political crisis that was rejected by opposition leader Andry Rajoelina, the BBC reported.

The broadcaster said Ravalomanana wasn't at the residence but in another presidential palace about 6 miles from the city center. Ravalomanana, who was re-elected to a second term in office in 2006, has said he wants to remain in office until term runs out in 2011 but Rajoelina has called for him to be arrested.

Speaking during a rally Monday, Rajoelina told supporters, "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," the France24 news channel reported.

But new army chief Andre Andriarijaona, who is leading soldiers who mutinied Sunday, told the broadcaster that the army would not issue an arrest warrant against Ravalomanana, saying that isn't its role.

In rejecting Ravalomanana's offer to hold a referendum to solve the political stand-off, Rajoelina told Madagascar national television, "The referendum is already done. The people have already expressed themselves. There is no need to hold a referendum. The resignation of Ravalomanana is the solution."

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