Maldives President expands cabinet

Male: Maldives` new President Mohamed Waheed Hassan today inducted seven members into his expanded cabinet, including the country`s first woman Attorney General and an aide of former dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, as he tries to cement his position as the head of a `unity government`.

Seeking to end a raging political crisis that erupted after the dramatic resignation of first democratic elected president Mohammed Nasheed last week, his former deputy drew new members of his cabinet from different political parties. Waheed also left key portfolios vacant like Foreign Affairs and Finance, apparently to bring Nasheed`s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) on board. Nasheed has refused to accept Waheed`s legitimacy to rule the Indian Ocean island nation.

Among the cabinet ministers is Azima Shakooru, the Attorney General of Maldives, who is the lone woman to get a ministerial berth. Incidentally, she was appointed as the first woman Attorney General way back in 2007 during Gayoom`s regime. Hassan also inducted into his government Mohamed Husain Sharif Mundu, the spokesperson of Gayoom`s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), which ruled the tiny nation for three decades.

Asked if his appointment confirms former Mohamed Nasheed allegation that the "coup" was engineered by his party, he replied, "I am not the only party in the government." He pointed out that the current President has left certain cabinet berths vacant and is keen to have Nasheed`s MDP on board. The government is yet to appoint Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Finance, Housing and Fisheries. He is yet to announce his Vice-President also. Asked when Gayoom, who is currently in Malaysia, will come back, Mundu said "soon".