Madagascar’s armed forces said on Tuesday they were ready to “fulfill their duties” if a bitter power struggle that has killed about 125 people is not resolved quickly.

Tension has risen in Antananarivo since Monday when police fired in the air to disperse thousands of protesters who support attempts by the capital’s former mayor, Andry Rajoelina, to oust President Marc Ravalomanana.

“The army is part of those looking for a rapid solution to the current situation. The army is not there to seize power, but it is ready to fulfill its duties,” General Fred Rakotovao, one of the army’s longest standing officers, said in a statement.On Tuesday, security forces deployed in the capital, blocking roads and preventing up to 10,000 demonstrators from accessing government ministries that have been labeled red zones, or no-go areas.

Opposition leader Rajoelina, a former disc jockey turned politician, accuses the president of being a dictator and has established a parallel administration which he wants to install in government buildings.Ravalomanana denies the charge and has told supporters he intends to remain in power until the end of his mandate in 2011.

A senior naval officer, Vice-Admiral Rarison Ramaroson, echoed the general’s pledge. “If there is no concrete solution (through dialogue) then we are ready to fulfill our duties,” he told reporters at the Ministry of Defence. The crisis on the world’s fourth largest island has had catastrophic consequences for the economy.



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