Ravalomanana stepped down as president and left the country last month following a power struggle lasting several weeks with his rival Andry Rajoelina.

Dissident troops backed Rajoelina, who later declared himself the country's leader.

Protests 

Ravalomanana's supporters have held several protests in recent weeks to demand his return.

Ravalomanana, who has been lobbying African leaders and foreign diplomats since he stepped aside, still regards himself as Madagascar's leader but has expressed a willingness to share power.

But Rajoelina has rejected the idea of a power-sharing government.

Foreign leaders have branded Rajoelina's rise to power a coup and demanded a quick election to restore constitutional order.

Ravalomanana said that he was not afraid of being arrested when he returns to his country.

"I trust Sadc (Southern African Development Community) and the AU (African Union) will help me to return to Madagascar," he said.

"We need to put pressure on this group, on this unconstitutional regime in Madagascar."