The leader of Madagascar’s mutinying troops has told President Marc Ravalomana to quit “at once”.

Col Noel Rakotonandrasa said the political crisis that has wracked the island since January would be over by the end of the day.

The president appealed to citizens to rally around his residence, prompting about 500 people to gather, while the opposition held a protest elsewhere.

Mr Ravalomanana is in a power struggle with ex-city mayor Andy Rajoelina.

The military police and some units of the army are refusing to take orders from the government.

But there is a small military presence on the city’s streets, despite earlier reports the army had deployed tanks.

Col Rakotonandrasa told the BBC: “For sure there will be no resistance.

“But if there is any, there’s other solutions we can discuss with the presidential guard. We want the president to go, so he should resign at once.”

He said a UN official had gone to see the president to convey the mutineers’ wishes that he step down.

“Something will happen between now and the end of the day,” he added.

Mr Ravalomanana said he would do everything to try to re-establish order but added that his life was under threat.

He said: “My assassination would not be in your interest. The people would suffer, and the international community would not accept it.

“Once again, I call on the army and the forces of order to remain united, and remain neutral.”

The BBC’s Jonah Fisher in the capital says residents told him they had gathered outside the presidential palace to protect democracy in response to Mr Ravalomana’s radio appeal for help.

According to AFP news agency, about 2,000 opposition protesters also gathered on Friday at the city’s May 13 Square for a new rally in support of Mr Rajoelina.

The opposition leader has been attempting to establish a parallel government by naming an alternative cabinet.

Correspondents say that as the country sinks into political chaos it is not clear who has the upper hand.

At least 100 people have died in opposition protests that began in late January.



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