16 Mar 2009

Madagascar opposition leader claims to control army

2:16 pm on 16 March 2009

Madagascar's opposition leader says he has the army's backing and is giving it orders in a stand-off with the president.

Andry Rajoelina is urging President Marc Ravalomanana to step down in a crisis that has killed more than 135 people this year in the Indian Ocean country. The conflict also threatens to derail Madagascar's economy.

Mr Ravalomanana has defied the ultimatum to resign in the face of a mass opposition rally in the capital, Antananarivo.

After the deadline passed, he emerged from the presidential palace, which is defended by hundreds of his supporters, to say he has no plans to resign.