Madagascar Exiled President Sent Back To S.Africa

Published January 21, 2012 12:27PM (EST)

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The spokesman for Madagascar's toppled president said the leader's attempt to end his exile in South Africa was thwarted in the air when his plane was forced to turn back after authorities of the Indian Ocean island closed their airspace to prevent his return.

The commercial plane carrying Marc Ravalomanana landed back in Johannesburg Saturday just after 2 p.m., about the time it had been expected to reach Madagascar's capital. Reporters on board said it did not stop to refuel in Mozambique, as Peter Mann, a spokesman for Ravalomanana, had said airline officials initially planned to do.

Ravalomanana has been exiled in South Africa since being toppled in 2009.

In Madagascar, a government minister said Ravalomanana's rival had closed the country's main airports to prevent Ravalomanana's return.

By Salon Staff

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