Sun, Feb 12, 2012 - Page 5 News List

US envoy visits Maldives as political crisis deepens

ABOUT-TURN?The US first announced that it recognized the change in government, but has since backtracked and sent a senior official to assist in resolving the matter

AFP, Male, Maldives

US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian affairs Robert Blake arrived in the Maldives yesterday seeking to help resolve a deepening political crisis sparked by the ousting of the first democratically elected Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed, who came to power in 2008.

Nasheed has said he was forced to resign on Tuesday in a coup d’etat led by mutinous army and police officers who threatened him with violence unless he stepped down.

The new Maldivian President Mohamed Waheed is the former vice president, whom Nasheed has accused of being party to the conspiracy to topple him.

Blake would seek to clarify how power was transferred during a visit to the crowded capital of the famous holiday islands, the US Department of State said.

Since stepping down, Nasheed has called for fresh elections and threatened protests if the police continue targeting members of his party and figures in his former administration.

Rioting erupted across the country on Wednesday when Nasheed publicly said he was the victim of a military-backed coup and senior members of his party were beaten during a rally in Male.

At least 18 police stations were torched and dozens of vehicles, court houses and government buildings were destroyed on some of the remote islets of the archipelago, police said.

Waheed has rejected Nasheed’s demand for elections.

“Simply because an ex--president wants an election we can’t have one just like that,” presidential spokesman Masood Imad said. “There is a constitutional process.”

Imad said Waheed had no intention of clinging on to power and would ensure the presidential election scheduled for November next year went ahead as planned.

Nasheed’s efforts to force Waheed to step down suffered a major blow on Thursday when Washington announced it recognized his successor’s administration as legitimate.

Nasheed, a former political prisoner and climate change campaigner, voiced disappointment at the announcement and the US later appeared to step back from its earlier declaration.

“We will work with the government of the Maldives, but believe that the circumstances surrounding the transfer of power need to be clarified,” Department of State spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters in Washington. “We also suggest that all parties agree to an independent mechanism to do that.”

Assistant UN Secretary-General Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, arrived in the Maldives on Friday and met both sides, diplomatic sources said.

An EU and Indian delegation are also scheduled to visit.

Diplomatic pressure has been applied to prevent police acting on an arrest warrant for Nasheed issued by a local criminal court on Thursday, diplomatic sources said.

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