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Madagascar Leader Appoints Cabinet

March 1, 2002

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ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar (AP) _ Madagascar’s main opposition leader and self-proclaimed president announced his Cabinet on Friday, and dismissed a government declaration of martial law.

Marc Ravalomanana, the mayor of the capital, Antananarivo, has said he won a majority of the vote in Dec. 17 presidential elections against incumbent President Didier Ratsiraka.

Official results show a runoff vote is necessary, but Ravalomanana has refused to participate.

On Thursday, Ratsiraka declared martial law after a series of huge protests aimed at forcing him to step down turned violent. Two people were reportedly killed.

But Ravalomanana said Friday he was in control of the country of 16 million people.

``The martial law is not a concern for us,″ he said. ``We are our own government now and we are calling all (people) to come back to work again.″

Ravalomanana held a ceremony at the mayoral palace to name 17 ministers. He did not announce who would take over the key defense portfolio _ which has so far been neutral in the dispute.

There was a notable increase in the number of troops on the streets of Antananarivo Friday, but the city was calm.

Local media reports said several hundred soldiers had been brought from surrounding areas to the capital to enforce the state of martial law, because Ratsiraka could not count on the support of troops based in the capital.

While Ratsiraka still occupies the presidential palace, Ravalomanana appears to have control of the city’s coffers. Earlier this week he authorized the payment of civil servants’ salaries and old age pensions.

Ratsiraka, 67, was Madagascar’s military ruler for 17 years before coming to power in elections in 1996.

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