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Former Maldives President Demands Elections

U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Oscar Fernandez-Taranco (R) talks to ousted Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed (L) on the country's current situation at Nasheed's private residence in Male February 10, 2012

Former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed is demanding early elections and threatening street protests, as the political crisis in the Indian Ocean nation escalates.

Nasheed's call came after he attended Friday prayers in the capital, Male, under heavy security. He has mainly remained at his home, alleging he was forced from office Tuesday in a coup. The Maldives' first democratically-elected leader has vowed to remain in the country despite the fact that a warrant for his arrest has been issued.

Key Facts About Maldives

  • Maldives is a chain of almost 1,200 islands in the Indian Ocean.
  • Less than 200 of the islands are inhabited.
  • 80 percent of the land area is one meter or less above sea level.
  • Tourism is Maldives' largest industry.
  • Population in 2010 was 310,000 people.
  • Maldives gained independence in 1965

United Nations official Oscar Fernandez-Taranco is in Maldives and met with new President Mohammad Washeed Hassan and Nasheed Friday, in an attempt to help resolve the political dispute.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake was due to arrive in the Maldives on Saturday to hold talks with both Hassan and Nasheed. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Thursday that the United States recognized the new Maldivian government as legitimate.

Nasheed on Friday expressed his disappointment with the U.S. stance. He maintains that the new president was involved in helping to remove him from office, allegations Hassan denies.

An arrest warrant was issued for Nasheed on Thursday, following violent clashes Wednesday between police and Nasheed's supporters in Male and several outlying islands.

Friday, the capital remained calm. But the former president said security forces were still targeting his supporters on the Maldives' most southern atoll of Addu.

Nasheed resigned Tuesday after numerous calls by protesters and police officers for him to step down. His former deputy, Waheed Hassan, was sworn in as president hours later.

The resignation came after Nasheed ordered the arrest of a senior judge, sparking three weeks of protests.

In a New York Times opinion piece Thursday, Nasheed said the judiciary was hand-picked by then-President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled the archipelago for three decades. Nasheed said the judges provided protection for Gayoom and his allies, many of whom are accused of corruption, embezzlement and human rights crimes.

Former President Gayoom on Friday rejected Nasheed's allegations of a coup and denied he has been involved in the unrest. Gayoom told the French News Agency that Hassan is the democratically-elected president of Maldives.

Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Friday he was sending a special envoy to Male to assess the situation although the government saw the situation in the Maldives as an "internal matter."

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