ANTANANARIVO (Reuters) - Deposed Madagascar president Marc Ravalomanana will not seek office in next year's presidential election aimed at ending the island nation's political crisis, the office of the Tanzanian president said.
The Indian Ocean island has been mired in political uncertainty since 2009 when then-opposition leader Andry Rajoelina ousted Ravalomanana, who was sentenced in absentia to life in prison for the killings of demonstrators by elite troops in the run-up to his removal.
The coup hobbled the economy, driving away tourists and foreign companies that might have invested in its oil, gold, chrome and nickel reserves.
In September last year, the country's main political parties signed a road map after talks mediated by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which confirmed Rajoelina as president and allowed for the unconditional return of Ravalomanana from self-imposed exile in South Africa.
But the implementation of the plan was beset by disagreements, including whether the road map allowed Ravalomanana to be imprisoned if he returned home.
A statement from the Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete's office seen by Reuters on Wednesday quoted Ravalomanana saying he had opted not to offer himself for office in the election scheduled for May in order to end the impasse.
He said he was preparing to return to Madagascar to seek peace and work together with the people in the reconstruction of the country.
SADC, which has just concluded its summit in the Tanzanian capital, said both Ravalomanana, a wealthy businessman, and Rajoelina, a former disc jockey, should be persuaded not to run in the election.
The statement from Kikwete's office said the Tanzanian president viewed the task of persuading Rajoelina to follow suit as "my responsibility."
(Reporting by Alain Iloniaina; Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Louise Heavens)
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