15 Mar 2009

Madagascar's president defies ultimatum

10:25 am on 15 March 2009

The political crisis in Madagascar is continuing, with a stand-off in the capital, Antananarivo.

An ultimatum from the leader of the opposition, Andry Rajoelina, for President Marc Ravalomanana to leave office has expired, but the president has refused to step down.

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

Mr Rajoelina has threatened to lead a march on the palace if the president does not leave.

At least 100 people have been killed in Madagascar since protests broke out in January.

The opposition, which is trying to set up its own government, has occupied the prime minister's offices.

An aide to Mr Rajoelina, who did not wish to be named, said after the deadline passed that the opposition was still waiting for the president to quit.

Presidential supporters are manning barricades around the park where the presidential palace stands, some 12km from Antananarivo.