Maldives political crisis rages

Feb. 13, 2012 at 12:01 AM
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MALE, Maldives, Feb. 12 (UPI) -- The political crisis in Maldives showed no signs of ending Monday as supporters of ousted President Mohamed Nasheed pressed on for his reinstatement.

Diplomatic efforts by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake and other European officials to restore normalcy in the strategic Indian Ocean island republic of about 350,000 people didn't yield much, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The capital of Male remained tense as supporters of Nasheed insisted the republic's first democratically elected president, forced to resign last week in what has been reported as a bloodless coup, be restored to his office he had held since 2008 amid growing protests.

The situation in the tiny republic southwest of India has assumed wider geopolitical context because of its strategic location along vital ocean shipping lanes.

Nasheed accused police of using undue force against his supporters, severely injuring some of them, the Journal reported. Masood Imad, spokesman for the new government of President Mohammed Waheed Hassan said police did attack the supporters but only after the latter had attacked them and torched police stations, the U.S. newspaper said.

Blake, who met with various parities to the struggle, sought to convince Nasheed to accept a unity government with Waheed Hassan, the Journal said. A European delegation also was in Male making similar efforts at a compromise.

"It's very important for the U.S. that all parties exercise restraint and refrain from violence," Blake was quoted as saying, while noting reports of "quite serious violations of human rights" by police.

There is growing concern about some of the Maldivians turning to a strict form of Islam, the Journal said. The republic is predominantly Muslim.

The Journal said there is also evidence that some Maldivians have joined the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Nasheed's election victory in 2008 through his Maldivian Democratic Party saw the end of three decades of authoritarian rule of President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Gayoom's supporters, however, remain strong.

Nasheed, rejecting U.S. calls for a unity government, wants another election to resolve the crisis, but Waheed Hassan's government says elections would be held as planned next year.

The new president, a former United Nations official, has said he is ready for a coalition administration and also for an independent investigation into events that led to Nasheed's removal from office.

The Journal reported the new president announced his Cabinet Sunday, bringing in some of those close to Gayoom as well as members of a conservative Islamist party. The new president also left open some posts including Foreign Ministry if Nasheed's party decided to join a unity government.

The New York Times reported the new government's inclusion of those from the former dictatorship as well as the business elite has raised concerns among people about their country's nascent democracy.

"There were so many people my age who wanted to bring this change," Hassan Hameez, 39, who runs a diving and tour business, told the Times. Now, he says he fears the future "will be the same as the time of the '80s and '90s."

The report also said there are concerns that Islamists could gain a bigger foothold in Maldives.

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