Madagascar leader, ex-presidents in reconciliation talks

(from left) Hery Rajaonarimampianina, Andry Rajoelina, Marc Ravalomanana, Didier Ratsiraka and Albert Zafy (AFP Photo/Stephane de Sakutin, Rijasolo, Bilal Tarabey, Gregoire Pourtier)

Antananarivo (AFP) - Madagascar's president and four of his predecessors met for the first time Friday in a bid to foster a national reconciliation process in the Indian Ocean island blighted by political crises.

The details of the closed-door talks being held at the behest of the Malagasy Christian Council of Churches are not being made public.

The four former presidents in the meeting are Albert Zafy, Didier Ratsiraka, Marc Ravalomanana and Andry Rajoelina.

They were joined by the current president Hery Rajaonarimampianina at a hotel near Ivato international airport, on the outskirts of the capital Antananarivo.

One of the ex leaders, Ravalomanana, ousted by Rajoelina in a 2009 coup, has been under house arrest in a northern town of Antsiranana (also known as Diego Suarez) since returning from exile in South Africa in October.

He was flown in for the talks under military escort. He had met president Rajaonarimampianina earlier this week.

National reconciliation is one of the main points of a roadmap brokered by the southern African regional bloc SADC and signed by the feuding parties in 2011 to end political crises that have long plagued the country.

Former finance minister Rajaonarimampianina became president in elections held a year ago. That vote was designed to resolve a crisis that brought international isolation and trashed the Malagasy economy.