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Indian diplomat says Maldives' new president has agreed for early election to end impasse
MALE, Maldives (AP) ' A top Indian diplomat says the new president in the Maldives has agreed to hold early elections to break a political impasse after his predecessor resigned.
India's Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai told reporters Thursday that President Mohammed Waheed Hassan agreed during talks with him to work on holding an election "as early as considered feasible by all concerned."
Former President Mohamed Nasheed stepped down last week after weeks of public protests and subsequent loss of support from armed forces and police. Then-Vice President Waheed replaced him.
Nasheed has since claimed he was ousted in a coup and called for an early presidential election. It is currently scheduled for October 2013.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) ' The new leader of the Maldives gave the ex-president's party four days Thursday to decide whether to join a coalition government, hoping the move would end long-standing political divisions.
The Indian Ocean island nation that is economically reliant on high-end tourism has been in political turmoil since then-President Mohamed Nasheed ordered a top judge arrested earlier this year and began losing support from the security forces.
He was replaced last week by former vice president Mohammed Waheed Hassan, who now is forming a coalition government to stabilize the country ahead of presidential elections due next year.
On Thursday, Hassan sent a letter to Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party, asking the party to inform the government of its decision before Monday, the president's website said.
In the letter, Hassan "stressed the need to resolve the existing political rifts and to find a way forward" and hoped that "that his proposition would bring an end to the long standing divisions that had existed in the country."
Nasheed's party had no immediate comment to the letter, but Nasheed rejected an earlier invitation. He insists early elections should be called and has angrily claimed he was ousted in a coup at gunpoint, accusations Hassan denies.
His claim sparked angry demonstrations in Male, which police violently quelled. Some supporters also captured and burned police stations and courthouses in far-off atolls in this archipelago.
The unity government proposal is backed by the United Nations and countries like the United States.
Since the presidential election is separate, Hassan's unity government will remain in power with or without Nasheed's party. Some Cabinet posts that were being kept open for his party could be filled with others, if it refuses to join.
Police have issued an arrest warrant against Nasheed, and on Tuesday asked him to make a statement on his order to the military to arrest the country's top Criminal Court Judge Abdullah Mohamed on accusations of political bias and corruption.
Tourism is the main industry in the Maldives, a chain of nearly 1,200 islands off southern India blessed with sandy beaches and coral. Most beach resorts have been untouched by the protests in Male and the southernmost atoll, Addu.