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10 December 2023

Ex-Maldives president rejects US compromise call


Ousted Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed on Sunday rejected a US call for compromise and dismissed proposals for a unity government to end political unrest in the Indian Ocean nation.

Nasheed, who insists he was removed in a coup, told supporters overnight in the capital Male that he would press for snap elections instead of recommending his party consider a coalition with his former deputy 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.

He also repeated his calls for an independent investigation into the alleged coup that toppled him and accused the police and military of carrying out arrests of MDP supporters and those linked to his administration.

His remarks came hours after US assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs Robert Blake spoke out against snap polls and asked both sides to make "compromises."

The United States is backing calls from the new president, Mohamed Waheed, for a national unity government to be formed.

Legislator Eva Abdulla, from Nasheed's MDP, said they were maintaining their stance that there should be an investigation into what they call a coup and that there should be elections immediately.

"He (Nasheed) is sticking to his position," Abdulla told AFP.

Blake had said that it was too early to hold an election and he wanted Maldivian institutions such as the police, the judiciary and the elections commission strengthened before the next vote due in November 2013.

"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.

The new president has ruled out elections before his term ends in 2013.

Nasheed, who claims a military-backed coup forced him to step down last Tuesday, has insisted snap polls were crucial to end the political crisis.

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

Blake blamed both Nasheed's MDP party and the police under the new president for violence that swept across the nation of 330,000 Sunni Muslims on Wednesday.

"I expressed concern about reports of violence and destruction of property by some MDP supporters, and violence by police in Male, Addu, and Thinadhoo," Blake said.

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 in the southern atolls.

The nine-member Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) which deals with serious violations of the Commonwealth's political values was to hold an emergency telephone conference at 1230 GMT Sunday over the Maldives turmoil.

The new government is not carrying out a warrant issued for Nasheed's arrest, following international pressure and fears such a move could spark more street protests and violence.

The government has also agreed to an investigation into the transfer of power as demanded by the US and many other Western nations.

President Waheed appointed seven more cabinet members on Sunday, but kept five portfolios open in an apparent sign of his wish for a national unity government.

Nasheed's exit from office followed months of protests over high prices and calls for more religiously conservative policies in the island nation.

A UN special envoy, Assistant Secretary General Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, arrived in the Maldives on Friday and met both sides.