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Central & South Asia
Ex-Maldives leader rejects US compromise call
Mohamed Nasheed says he will press for snap polls instead of considering a coalition with his ex-deputy, now in charge.
Last Modified: 13 Feb 2012 00:08



The former president of the Maldives has rejected a United States call for compromise and a unity government to end political unrest as fresh clashes rock the Indian Ocean nation.

Mohamed Nasheed, who insists he was removed in a coup, told supporters in the capital Male he would press for snap elections instead of considering a coalition with his former deputy, Mohamed Waheed, who succeeded him.

"We want an election and we will campaign for it," Nasheed told large, cheering crowds, who later dispersed peacefully.

Nasheed said his Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) did not accept the new government as legitimate.

The comments came after Robert Blake, the US assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs, spoke out against snap polls and asked both parties to make "compromises".

The US is backing calls from Waheed for a national unity government that will hold election by November 2013 when they are due.

Blake had said it was too early to hold a snap election and wanted Maldivian institutions such as the police, judiciary and the elections commission strengthened before the next vote.

"I don't think anyone believes that elections can be properly held right now," Blake told reporters on Saturday at the end of a 12-hour visit for talks with Waheed, Nasheed and other figures.

"In a situation like this everyone must compromise," Blake said. "In the days ahead, everyone should look for ways to bridge the differences."

Commonwealth statement

The 54-nation Commonwealth said on Sunday it would send a ministerial mission to the Maldives to investigate the facts surrounding Nasheed's resignation.

Maldives Quick Facts

The nation of the Maldives is a grouping of 1,192 islands covering about 500 miles of the Indian Ocean, south of India. Fewer than 200 of the islands are inhabited.

330,000 people are citizens, including 200,000 on the capital island of Male alone.

The Maldives gained independence from Britain in 1965.

Most of the population is Muslim, which has greatly influenced the political system.

Tourism is the largest industry, accounting for one-third of GDP and more than 60 per cent of foreign currency earnings.

GDP in 2009 was $147bn; GDP per capita was $2,791.80.

Source: Agencies

After holding urgent ministerial talks by telephone to discuss the crisis, the Commonwealth said the way forward "must be determined by Maldivians themselves, through inclusive political dialogue in an atmosphere of non-violence, restraint and stability".

The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, the organisation's democracy monitor, said in a statement it had agreed to set up "a ministerial mission which will visit Maldives urgently to ascertain the facts surrounding the transfer of power".

Nasheed loyalists surrounded the National Majlis, or parliament, and clashed with police after chanting slogans demanding the release of an MDP legislator arrested in the southernmost atoll of Addu.

Police dressed in full riot gear used pepper-spray on protesters to lift the siege on the parliament building where 20 MDP legislators were petitioning the authorities about the arrest of their colleagues.

"What we have is an illegal government ... we will demonstrate and the crowds will grow until they give us elections," one of the protesters said.

Nasheed was not among the protesters outside parliament, but earlier in the day he repeated charges that the authorities were arresting MDP supporters and those linked to his administration.

At least 35 people were wounded in a police crackdown in Male on Wednesday while 18 police stations were set ablaze by MDP supporters in the southern islands. The MDP said police continued to arrest their supporters.

Nasheed's resignation followed weeks of street protests by opposition supporters after he ordered the military to arrest the country's top judge, accusing him of being in the pocket of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the country's former president.

Nasheed was widely credited with ushering in democracy when he won an election in 2008, ending Gayoom's 30-year rule.

Source:
Agencies
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