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Maldives' Ex-President Calls for International Sanctions

Former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed poses for a picture at the poolside of a hotel in New Delhi, India, April 18, 2012.
Former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed poses for a picture at the poolside of a hotel in New Delhi, India, April 18, 2012.

The Maldives' former president, who says he was forced out of power in a violent coup, is calling on the world to sanction his country. Mohamed Nasheed met with India's prime minister this week.

The decision by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to meet with former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed is sure to be an irritant to the island nation's current president, Mohamed Waheed.

A spokesman for Waheed said the president had warned he would be “disappointed” if Singh met with Nasheed before meeting with him. He hinted that Waheed, due to visit India next month, might even consider changing his travel plans.

Political turmoil, contradictory accounts

The sun-soaked Maldives are best known internationally as a resort destination. In recent months, they have made headlines for a political crisis.

The current and former leaders have sharp disagreements over the circumstances of Nasheed's resignation in February. Nasheed says he resigned reluctantly at gunpoint. He is calling for the world to pressure the Waheed government into holding early elections.

“One of the steps we would like the international community to take would be to ban members of the regime traveling to their countries. Most of them have second homes in Europe. We would like their access to these places stopped. I think that would have a strong impact on them,” said Nasheed.

The Waheed government has set elections for July of 2013, arguing that is the earliest date permissible under the country's constitution.

Nasheed became the first democratically elected president of the Maldives in 2008, defeating 30-year authoritarian ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. A coalition of several former opposition parties soon broke, though, with Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party and left the government.

Dueling accusations

Nasheed told reporters recently he is certain Waheed, who ran for vice president with him on the MDP ticket, is just a “facade” for Gayoom to once again run the country from behind the scenes.

Nasheed said he feared for his life when national police and military surrounded him in February.

“I was forced to resign and if I had not resigned, I would not be here answering your questions. They would have murdered me, they would have mobbed me,” said Nasheed.

Waheed's media secretary, Masood Imad, accused Nasheed of orchestrating the coup narrative in a botched attempt to deflect attention from weeks of public protest over his policies.

“Mr. Nasheed has basically spun this entire story about a coup. There was no coup. This guy is nuts, I am telling you,” said Imad.

Critics of Nasheed fault him for the arrest of a prominent judge, as well as for economic policies they blame for fueling inflation. Some accuse him of failing to uphold the standards of the archipelago nation's traditional Muslim culture.

Nasheed vows he will return to the Maldives, even though he fears for his safety, and predicts his party eventually will return to power.