New Maldives leader denies `coup` charges

The new President of the Maldives, Mohamed Waheed, denied seizing power, even as his predecessor accused him of involvement in a coup plot and called on him to resign.

Male: The new President of the Maldives,
Mohamed Waheed, denied seizing power on Wednesday, even as his
predecessor accused him of involvement in a coup plot and
called on him to resign.

Waheed, the former vice president, was sworn in yesterday
hours after the dramatic resignation of Mohamed Nasheed
following weeks of anti-government protests and a police
mutiny on the Indian Ocean holiday islands.

Speaking at his first press conference since taking
office, Waheed rejected suggestions that Nasheed had been
overthrown in a takeover orchestrated by opposition leaders
and the security forces.

"It is wrong to describe the events as a coup. We did not
know this was going to happen. I was unprepared," he said.

However, in an exclusive interview, Nasheed
insisted that he had been forced into resigning by a group of
armed rebel police and army officers who had threatened a
bloodbath if he refused.

"They told me if I didn`t resign they would resort to use
arms," Nasheed told a news agency by telephone from a family property in
the capital Male.

He added that he feared Waheed "was in on it" and had
seized the chance to take over.

"I am afraid he`s always entertained an idea to become the
president. He`s never been able to do that. When the
opportunity was available to him, he took it," he said.

The army has denied playing any coercive role in the
former president`s decision to leave office.

In a speech at a meeting later in the day with senior
leaders of his Maldivian Democratic Party, Nasheed formally
called on Waheed "to step down" and urged the judiciary to
bring the "coup" plotters to justice.

Thousands of supporters greeted Nasheed as he arrived at
the meeting, chanting his nickname "Long Live Anni!". They
then rallied in an area outside the state broadcasting
headquarters, guarded by police in riot gear.

In his press conference, Waheed said he would appoint a
"truly multi-party cabinet" in the next few days, and claimed
he was in talks with all groups including the MDP.

The weeks of protests that led to Nasheed`s downfall had
erupted after he ordered the army to arrest Criminal Court
Chief Justice Abdulla Mohamed on charges of misconduct and
favouring opposition figures.

Opposition parties accused him of trampling over the
constitution, and the demonstrations were swelled by religious
conservatives who regarded his regime as un-Islamic.

Waheed said today that Islamic parties "will be
represented" in his new cabinet, adding that they are "part of
our society and can`t be ignored".

Islam is the official religion of the Maldives and open
practice of any other religion is forbidden and liable to

Yesterday`s events marked a spectacular fall for Nasheed.
The 44-year-old rose to power from grassroots opposition
to the 30-year autocratic regime of former president Maumoon
Abdul Gayoom, who imprisoned him on several occasions.

His clear victory over Gayoom in the country`s first free
elections in 2008 was hailed as heralding a new era of
democracy and progressive politics.

He used his mandate to build a reputation internationally
as a committed campaigner against climate change and once held
a cabinet meeting underwater to highlight the dangers of
rising sea levels.


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