Pressure builds for probe into Maldives' crisis

Sat Feb 11, 2012 1:17pm EST
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By C. Bryson Hull

MALE (Reuters) - New Maldives President Mohamed Waheed Hussain Manik said on Saturday he was open to an inquiry into how he took office after his predecessor said he had been forced out in a coup.

Diplomats from the United States, Britain, India, the United Nations and the Commonwealth have been pressing for an independent inquiry after President Mohamed Nasheed quit office on Tuesday.

"I have heard calls for an independent inquiry into the events that preceded my assumption of the presidency," said Waheed, who met U.S. Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia Robert Blake on Saturday. "I am open to those suggestions," he told reporters.

Nasheed, the first democratically elected leader of the Indian Ocean archipelago and tourist haven, says he was forced out at gunpoint by mutinying police and soldiers. Waheed, his former deputy, says Nasheed resigned freely.

On Friday Nasheed threatened mass street protests unless his successor stepped aside and handed power to the parliament speaker until new elections are held in two months. The next elections are due in October 2013.

But Blake, after talks with the current and former presidents, said many people he met felt immediate elections were not feasible "because the police, the election commission and judiciary are not sufficiently prepared for a free and fair election."

Whether Nasheed's exit was the result of a coup or a voluntary departure needed to be investigated, he said.

"The circumstances of the transfer of power remain very much up for debate but it's up to Maldivians to decide," said Blake, who was ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives when the October 2008 elections that brought Nasheed to power took place.   Continued...