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Madagascar speaker ousted over Iran support

Written by: Staff
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ANTANANARIVO, May 9 (Reuters) Madagascar's parliament ousted its speaker from office late yesterday, after legislators accused him of treason for declaring his support for Iran's nuclear programme, the ruling party said.

During a visit to Iran in April, an Iranian news agency reported that speaker Jean Lahiniriko had congratulated Tehran for ''its recent scientific realisations and its access to the peaceful nuclear technology, which is a success not only for Iran but also for all the developing countries.'' Iran's uranium enrichment programme has been condemned by the international community who accuse it of seeking nuclear weapons.

Iran maintains its activities are legal and peaceful.

The governing TIM party submitted a motion to impeach Lahiniriko last week and 119 out of 160 members of parliament voted to evict him from office.

The TIM party says the motion was tabled because Lahiniriko committed high treason for approving Iran's nuclear programme.

They also accuse him of not fulfilling his responsibilities as speaker of parliament.

''It is a victory not for our party TIM, but for the whole Malagasy people,'' head of TIM and deputy speaker, Solofonantenaina Razoarimihaja, told journalists.

Madagascar enjoys close relations with the United States and France - two countries which are leading global condemnation of Iran's uranium enrichment programme.

Lahiniriko rejected the impeachment and called for a new vote today.

''I remain speaker of the national assembly because the procedure of the vote for impeachment used by the TIM was full of irregularities'', he told a news conference.

''Because of all these irregularities, I plan to organise a new session this afternoon. The results of this vote will be the only valid one,'' he added.

Lahiniriko said the ballot was not secret as there was no polling booth and questioned the appointment of an interim speaker.

He also said that as speaker he was the only one who had the power to call for a special parliamentary session for such a ballot.

Senior TIM members denied irregularities and said the island's High Constitutional Court would now validate the vote.

They said Lahiniriko was no longer the speaker and a replacement would be elected within two months.

Lahiniriko last week told parliament his comments were made unofficially when asked by an Iranian journalist and were his own personal views and not meant to represent Madagascar's official position on the nuclear program.

REUTERS OM PC2031

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