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Madagascar’s Rajaonarimampianina pushes for aid

March 17, 2014

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Madagascar’s new president will meet with International Monetary Fund and World Bank officials this week in a bid to unblock the flow of aid to his impoverished country.

Hery Rajaonarimampianina, who spoke to reporters after meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said he was optimistic about the talks, scheduled for Tuesday with top leaders of both institutions in Washington.

The December elections that brought Rajaonarimampianina to power raised hopes of ending international sanctions imposed on Madagascar after a 2009 coup. The loss of much foreign aid increased hunger and hardship in the country off Africa’s southeast coast.

Rajaonarimampianina assured he was working to complete the formation of a new government and promote national reconciliation — key steps for attracting foreign aid and investment. He acknowledged that the naming of a new prime minister has been slow but insisted that it would not affect his negotiations with international lenders.

Rajaonarimampianina said his government “even without a prime minister” has already been able to advance discussions with lending institutions. The IMF, he said, restored ties with Madagascar last week for the first time since the coup.

Rajaonarimampianina said his discussions with the IMF and the World Bank would seek to establish urgent and long-term priorities for development aid.

He also said he plans to meet with Exxon Mobile Corp. officials about the possibility of the company resuming oil exploration in Madagascar. Rajaonarimampianina said the oil giant suspended its exploration activities during the crisis but now wants “to come back and continue its exploration work. I think it’s within Exxon’s right.”

A former finance minister, Rajaonarimampianina’s candidacy was backed by the former strongman who took power after the 2009 coup. His rival, Robinson Jean Louis, had been backed by the former leader ousted in the coup, Marc Ravalomanana.

Rajaonarimampianina’s Jan. 25 inauguration was marred by a grenade explosion outside the stadium that killed a child and injured 33 people.

Rajaonarimampianina said the goal of reconciliation would be a key consideration in the selection of the new prime minister. But he was evasive about what role the opposition would play in his new government.

The president said he had “no particular ties” to Ravalomanana, who is in exile in South Africa. He said if the ousted leader “could contribute to support me and support the 20 million Malagasies” and display “patriotism” it “would bring us closer together.”

According to a U.N. statement, Ban expressed hope during his meeting that Rajaonarimampianina’s inauguration “would present an opportunity to restore political stability in Madagascar.”

The U.N. chief stressed “the need for pursuing political reconciliation and inclusive policies and reforms that would deepen democratic and accountable governance.”

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