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Maldives promotes tourism despite protests

March 16, 2012 at 2:07 PM

MALE, Maldives, March 16 (UPI) -- The new tourism minister of the Maldives says the country is safe for travelers despite ongoing protests over the recent ousting of President Mohamed Nasheed.

Recently appointed tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb Abdul Gafoor, speaking at a news conference in London this week, said protests throughout the island country, including the capital Male, do not put international travelers at risk, The Daily Telegraph reported Friday.

Gafoor's announcement came after the Foreign Office removed its warning against all but essential travel to Male, advising continued protests are "likely" and travelers should avoid large gatherings.

Protesters say the new government -- comprised of some politicians and businessmen who were in power under the autocratic 30-year rule of Maumoon Adbul Gayoom -- is undermining democracy. Leaflets were handed out by demonstrators outside the hotel where Gafoor spoke, the newspaper said.

International human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have accused the new government of ordering police to violently suppress demonstrations.

"We take these claims [of police brutality] very seriously and have opened it up for investigation -- it is too soon to jump to conclusions. The fact that there are leaflets being handed to you outside shows how open we are," Gafoor said.

Gafoor also criticized a call for travelers to avoid a number of the islands' resorts whose owners have been accused of playing a role in Nasheed's ousting last month.

Friends of Maldives, a pro-democracy group out of London, issued a travel advisory urging people vacationing in the Maldives to avoid selected resorts.

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