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Addis Ababa - The African Union lifted sanctions Thursday against Madagascan President Andry Rajoelina and his backers imposed three years ago to encourage negotiations after he seized power in a coup, officials said.
The ending of sanctions, imposed in March 2010 exactly one year after Rajoelina, a former disc jockey, took power with the help of the army, comes as Madagascar moves towards a much-delayed presidential election.
The vote is designed to end the country's long running political crisis.
The pan-African bloc agreed to “immediately lift those targeted sanctions against a list of 109 individuals”, including Rajoelina, Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra said.
Sanctions, which included an asset freeze, were lifted because Madagascar was heading in the right direction to potentially hold credible elections on October 25, he added.
“There is a complete change of circumstances, because now the electoral process is very much on track and these personalities, including the president himself, have played a most active role,” Lamamra said.
But he warned that “spoilers” trying to undermine the electoral process could yet be slapped by sanctions by the AU.
Madagascar has been suspended from the AU since 2009, but Lamamra said the Indian Ocean island would be reinstated after elections scheduled for October 25.
“It will remain suspended until the swearing-in of the new president, who will be elected before the end of this year,” he said.
Ousted president Marc Ravalomanana, a milk mogul who is living in exile in South Africa, has been blocked several times from returning home.
Last month election organisers set October 25 as the date for the repeatedly delayed polls.
Parliamentary elections will follow on December 20, along with a second presidential round if the October vote does not deliver an outright winner.