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People Show Support for Ousted Maldives President; US Backtracks on Coup Stance

Common Dreams staff

Maldives' former President Mohamed Nasheed, center, lifts a child as he walks out from a Mosque following prayers with his supporters in Male, Maldives, Friday, Feb. 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

Ex-President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives received wide popular support from thousands of people who took to the street to protest his ouster in a military coup earlier this week.  Meanwhile, the US government backtracked on its recognition of the new government after criticism by Nasheed and international outcry.

The Guardian reports:

Thousands of people have takento the streets in the capital of the Maldives in support of former president Mohamed Nasheed, ousted in what appeared to be a military-backed coup earlier this week.

On Thursday Nasheed was confined to his family home in Malé, facing detention after a court issued an arrest warrant against him. However, the political fortunes of the democracy activist and environmental campaigner appeared to be improving when thousands ignored a heavy presence of security forces to cheer him as he attended Friday prayers at the main mosque.

Though the police played a key role in forcing the 44-year-old out and in subsequent violence directed at his supporters, they did not intervene on Friday.

Nasheed called on his successor, former vice-president Mohamed Waheed Hussain Manik, to resign and told reporters: "I am not asking to be reinstated. I am asking for fresh elections within the next two months. Dr Waheed has to resign.

"There has to be judicial reform and reform of the criminal justice system in this country. Status quo cannot be maintained. [The] international community needs to do more, they have to see the situation in Maldives, the real picture."

Nasheed, who won the Maldives' first democratic elections in 2008 with 54% of the vote, says he was forced to resign by a group of soldiers who threatened violence. The new government denies coercion. Presidential polls are due in 2013.

And on Friday, the US State Department backed down from its initial backing of the government that took over in the wake of the coup. According to the Associated Press:

The United States on Friday backtracked from its swift recognition of the new Maldives government, which the nation's former leader claims came to power in a coup. [...]

Nasheed criticized Washington after the State Department said Thursday it recognized the new government as legitimate.

"It's unfortunate that the American government has decided to work with the regime," Nasheed told reporters.

On Friday in Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that the circumstances in the Maldives are murky and contested. "I got myself in a place yesterday that was not borne out by the facts," she told a news briefing.

"We will work with the government of the Maldives, but believe that the circumstances surrounding the transfer of power need to be clarified. And we also suggest that all parties agree to an independent mechanism to do that," she said.

Asked whether there had been an extraconstitutional change in power, she said the U.S. does not yet have a clear view of the facts, but would expect to have a clearer idea after U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake visits Male, arriving Saturday.


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