Madagascar

Madagascar's transitional leader Andry Rajoelina unveiled his new administration Tuesday and immediately froze all mining contracts, defying regional powers who have ordered him to reinstate his toppled predecessor. Rajoelina, who forced president Marc Ravalomanana to step down earlier this month, said he was ordering a review of all mining contracts with foreign firms to ensure greater revenues from drilling and extraction rights.

Supporters of Madagascar's former President Marc Ravalomanana are staging daily street protests - just one indication that Africa's youngest president has a tough road ahead of him.

The African Union suspended Madagascar on Friday, the strongest condemnation yet by the international community after opposition leader Andry Rajoelina took power with the support of the army. The AU decision echoed criticism by southern African bloc SADC, the European Union and United States. Weeks of political unrest in Madagascar have killed at least 135 people, devastated the economy and worried foreign investors.

The chairman of the African Union (AU), Libyan leader Mouammar Gaddafi, has called for a referendum in Madagascar as soon as possible under the auspices of the country's constitutional institutions and AU organs to find a solution to the political events presently prevailing in the country.

Reporters Without Borders has expressed its renewed concern after five newspapers stopped publishing and several journalists were threatened and physically assaulted during the political upheaval of the past few weeks. The media has become the prisoner of a hostile climate for press freedom since the start of the power struggle between the president, Marc Ravalomanana, and the ousted mayor of Antananarivo, Andry Rajoelina, the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

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