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February 10, 2012

US Official: Maldives Not Ready for Early Elections

A U.S. official visiting the politically troubled Maldives said Saturday that the island group is not ready for the early elections suggested by its former president.

After meeting with former President Mohamed Nasheed and new President Mohammed Waheed Hassan, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake said he believes Maldives is not ready to hold early elections.

He said the police, the election commission, and the judiciary are not sufficiently prepared for a free and fair election process. He urged broad compromise between political players as they sort out how they will proceed.

Earlier in the day, President Hassan told the U.S. official that he has agreed to a probe about his political takeover earlier this week. President Nasheed resigned under duress on Tuesday, but later said he had been the subject of a military-backed coup. His former deputy, Mr. Hassan, was sworn in as president hours later.   

Washington recognized Mr. Hassan's administration Thursday, but then stepped back from the declaration, saying circumstances surrounding the transfer of power needed to be "clarified."

Mr. Nasheed has expressed disappointment with the U.S. stance.  He has maintained the new president was involved in helping remove him from office, allegations Mr. Hassan has denied.

Since stepping down, Mr. Nasheed has called for early elections and has threatened street protests.  He has vowed to remain in the country even though a warrant for his arrest was issued Thursday. The arrest warrant followed a day of violent clashes Wednesday between police and Mr. Nasheed's supporters in the capital, Male, and several outlying islands.

U.N. official Oscar Fernandez-Taranco met with President Hassan and Mr. Nasheed Friday in an attempt to help resolve the political dispute.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.