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Ban says Madagascar rivals should withdraw

UN leader Ban Ki-moon backed African calls for Madagascar strongman Andry Rajoelina and two rivals to withdraw from the country's presidential election in July.

Ban criticized a decision by Madagascar's electoral court to accept the candidacies of Rajoelina, Lalao Ravalomanana, wife of the leader ousted by Rajoelina, and another former president Didier Ratsiraka.

"The secretary general shares the concerns expressed by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union over the latest developments in the electoral process in Madagascar," said the UN spokesman Martin Nesirky.

SADC has called on the three to withdraw from the election, which it spent years trying to mediate between rival political factions. The African Union said Friday it would not recognize the result if Rajoelina was declared winner.

Ban believes the move by Rajoelina, Ravalomanana and Ratsiraka to enter the election race their acceptance by the electoral court "is in violation of the spirit of the SADC-mediated road map," said Nesirky.

"United Nations assistance to the electoral process is conditional upon strict adherence by all parties to the road map as the sole framework for a restoration of the full legitimacy of the government of Madagascar," the spokesman added.

Ban called upon all sides to comply with the SADC and African Union decisions to keep the UN-endorsed plan for elections on track, Nesirky said. The first round of the vote is scheduled for July 24.

Madagascar has been in deadlock since Rajoelina, a former disc jockey, ousted arch-rival Ravalomanana in a 2009 coup.

The electoral court accepted the three candidacies even though Rajoelina registered outside the deadline and neither Lalao Ravalomanana nor Ratsiraka have lived in Madagascar for the past six months as the election law demands.

Rajoelina has already rejected the SADC's call for him to withdraw. "The Malagasy people must be left to decide who they will choose to lead the country," he said on May 13.

The Madagascar election is to be discussed by Ban during his current tour of Africa.