Gayoom back in Maldives

March 7, 2012 at 2:18 AM
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MALE, Maldives, March 7 (UPI) -- Former Maldivian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has returned home, denying allegations he was involved in the ouster of his successor Mohamed Nasheed.

Gayoom arrived in the capital Male Tuesday, a month after fast-moving developments in Maldives that saw the departure of Nasheed, and a new government taking over. Nasheed's election, the first such democratically chosen president, in 2008 ended three decades of authoritarian rule by Gayoom.

Nasheed, who has faced opposition in the strategic Indian Ocean island nation of about 350,000 since becoming president, has said he was ousted in a Feb. 7 coup and his supporters have been demanding new elections. The new government has denied the allegations.

Since then, the government of President Mohamed Waheed has agreed to fresh elections to resolve the crisis on the island.

Gayoom, who arrived after a two-month trip to Malaysia, opposed early polls and claimed he had no role in the change of government, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

Gayoom said protesters during Nasheed's rule had tried to resist unlawful orders of his government, "but, no, we did not do anything to overthrow the government by illegal means. The rumors are false and baseless allegations," PTI reported.

Gayoom was quoted as saying he did not support early polls and that presidential election must be held every five years as scheduled.

Gayoom said Waheed had been sworn in as president constitutionally, PTI said.

The news agency said former loyalists of the Gayoom regime now dominate Waheed's Cabinet.

China's Xinhua News agency quoted Gayoom as saying he and his party and the other parties of the coalition would extend full support to the new administration.

The early elections, brokered by neighbor India, are likely be held by year-end. Normally, elections were not due before October of next year.

India has extensive contacts with Maldives and has been concerned about the latest developments there.

The situation in the 350,000-population Maldives, where tourism is the main industry, has drawn the interest of the United States and Britain because it sits in vital sea lanes, and because of concern about reports of radicalization among some of its predominantly Muslim population.

Western media has reported there is evidence some Maldivians have joined the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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