by Staff Writers
Male (AFP) Feb 9, 2012
The new Maldivian president has made urgent cabinet appointments to try and contain violence that has spread across the archipelago since his predecessor said he was forced to resign in a coup.
President Mohamed Waheed appointed retired colonel Mohamed Nazim as defence minister and lawyer Mohamed Jameel Ahmed as home minister, presidential aide Mohamed Shareef said Thursday.
"Even though the appointment of a national unity cabinet is taking time, the president made these two urgent appointments to take charge and control the spread of violence since Wednesday evening," Shareef told AFP.
Waheed was sworn in Tuesday just hours after his predecessor announced his resignation in a televised press conference.
Nasheed later claimed that he had been forced to step down in what was an effective coup d'etat orchestrated by opposition leaders with the backing of the security forces.
Violence erupted across the holiday resort island chain on Wednesday as supporters of the former president stormed police stations and burned government buildings in outlying atolls.
In the capital Male, thousands of protesters clashed with security forces near the police and military headquarters.
Shareef accused Nasheed of inciting his supporters to unleash "anarchy" on the streets.
Maldivian police declined to give details of any casualties, but denied media reports that as many as three people may have been killed in the unrest,
Police Chief Inspector Abdul Mannan Yoosuf confirmed that violence in the capital had spread to far flung atolls, but added that tourist resorts were unaffected.
The Maldives is dependent on tourism and its resorts, popular with high-end honeymooners, are mostly located on otherwise uninhabited coral islets .
Yoosuf said police were planning a "joint operation with the armed forces" to bring the situation under control."
It is the Maldives' worst unrest since clashes in 2003 following the death of an inmate at the hands of security forces, an event which sparked the process of democratic change on the Indian Ocean islands.
In Washington the State Department called for calm and said a senior US envoy would visit the Maldives on Saturday, but stopped short of describing events as a coup.
Nasheed told AFP he suspected Waheed, his former vice president, had known of a plot to overthrow him.
Deposed Maldives president 'at risk', say climate activists
"Tell your national leaders: We are deeply concerned about the recent coup that forced (Nasheed) from office and is currently keeping him under house arrest," 350.org said on its website, which provides a Web form for emailing the petition.
"President Nasheed was the first democratically elected leader of his country and a global voice for action to address the climate crisis. He needs your support to ensure his safety," the organisation said.
"Please put diplomatic pressure on the leaders of this coup to avoid violence and to work for a peaceful, democratic solution to their conflict."
Nasheed, speaking by telephone from the capital Male, told AFP that he resigned under the threat of violence from some 18 "middle-ranking" police and army officers.
"They told me if I didn't resign they would resort to use arms," he said. "I took it as a threat. I wanted to negotiate the lives of the people who were serving in my government."
350.org, a global grassroots campaign calling for a sharp cut in greenhouse gas emissions to reduce the concentration of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, praised Nasheed as a "tireless voice for climate action."
Many small island nations are already reeling from the impact of rising sea levels and more intense storms, both impacts of global warming, according to scientists.
Nasheed -- who once held a cabinet meeting underwater to dramatise the plight of low-lying island states such as his own -- often said that beating back the threat of climate change "is a matter of life and death for us."
"Now it is he specifically who is at risk," 350.org said in launching the appeal.
Separately, the makers of "The Island President" -- a soon-to-be-released documentary about Nasheed that won an award at the Toronto International Film Festival -- said they were "deeply concerned" for his safety.
"As filmmakers who spent two years off and on with President Nasheed while making 'The Island President,' we witnessed a leader committed to transparent governance, multi-party democracy and the struggle for human rights," they said in a statement on Facebook.
"This struggle includes his leadership in the fight against climate change that so threatens the Maldives and the rest of us. This is not the first time that Nasheed has suffered a political setback in his fight for justice in the Maldives. We expect this is just the next chapter," the filmmakers said.
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Syria's Assad 'frees al-Qaida strategist'
Beirut, Lebanon (UPI) Feb 6, 2012
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