Blake holds talks with Maldivian leaders

Male: Joining countries like India to help defuse the political crisis in the Maldives, a top US diplomat today held talks with ousted President Mohammed Nasheed and his successor Mohammed Waheed Hassan to get the firsthand assessment of the situation.

Four days after 44-year-old Nasheed was "forced" to step down, US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Robert Blake met him and gathered information about recent political developments in the Indian ocean nation. As Nasheed held talks with Blake at a hotel near the Indian High Commission here, hundreds of his supporters, including women, stood outside in a show of solidarity.

The meeting between the two at the Traders Hotel, where Blake is staying, lasted for half-an-hour. Though there was no security personnel at the scene earlier, around 15 policemen arrived soon after the meeting began. As Nasheed came out of the hotel, his supporters clapped and shouted slogans. He walked back to his home situated nearby.

Later, Blake met new President Hassan, who was Nasheed`s deputy just four days ago. The US diplomat`s meetings came a day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh`s special envoy M Ganapathi conveyed India`s willingness to assist in early installation of a national unity government in the Indian Ocean atoll during his talks with Nasheed and Hassan here.

Hassan is understood to have assured India that he would not indulge in a witch-hunt while dealing with Nasheed, who was the first democratically-elected President of Maldives. UN Assistant Secretary General Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, who arrived here on Friday, also held talks with both sides. In Washington, the State Department backtracked from its recognition of the new Maldivian government and said the current situation in the Maldives was "fluid" and the circumstances under which change of power occurred in this island nation this week were "murky".

"The circumstances are murky, they are contested, the situation is somewhat fluid," State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said last evening. Her comments came a day after she said the US considered the new Maldivian government legitimate. Days after he stepped down, in what he termed as a coup d`etat, a defiant Nasheed led a massive rally of supporters in the capital yesterday after Friday prayers, where he demanded that Hassan step down to pave the way for fresh polls.

Nasheed, who came to power in 2008, accuses Hassan of being part of the conspiracy to topple him. An uneasy calm prevailed today on the streets of the Maldivian capital following days of protests and clashes in the wake of the resignation of Nasheed. Shops and businesses opened in the city this morning after remaining closed during the protests which erupted four days ago. Yesterday also, markets had opened partially.

Areas around the Maldives National Defence Force headquarters as well as the police headquarters witnessed normal activities. Traffic was plying without disruption outside Majalis (Maldivian Parliament) as well as the new President Mohamed Waheed Hassan`s office. The scene outside Nasheed`s office was also normal.