Madagascan leader Andry Rajoelina said there had been "significant progress" at talks in Tanzania to end his country's three-year-old political crisis, but headed home Saturday without striking a conclusive deal to end the stalemate.
Mediators have been struggling to find a way to restore constitutional rule in Madagascar since Rajoelina ousted former president Marc Ravalomanana with military backing in March 2009.
Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete is urging both rivals not to stand in elections scheduled for next year, the culmination of a roadmap drawn up by mediators from the 15-nation South African Development Community (SADC).
The Tanzanian and Madagascan leaders sounded an upbeat note at the end of their talks, promising to "conclude the matter" at another meeting before the end of the month -- though Rajoelina left without resolving the issue of his candidacy.
"The talks were held in a cordial and friendly atmosphere and significant progress has been made," Kikwete and Rajoelina said in a joint statement late Friday.
"The two leaders agreed to have further consultations with relevant stakeholders prior to meeting again before the end of the month to conclude the matter."
Tanzania announced Tuesday that ex-president Ravalomanana had agreed not to stand in the elections, and mediators' hopes had been running high that his rival Rajoelina would follow suit.
The Tanzanian president, the chair of the SADC political, security and defence panel, had earlier said the regional bloc had tasked him with the job of pressing Rajoelina not to run "as a way towards resolving the crisis".
But there was no announcement on the issue following the talks.
Ex-president Ravalomanana -- who fled to South Africa after his ouster, and whose return from exile has been a major sticking point in mediation efforts -- is planning to return to Madagascar, said the joint statement issued after the talks.
He will "seek peace and work together with the people of Madagascar in reconstructing and rebuilding our country", it said.© ANP/AFP