Major cabinet expansion in crisis-hit Maldives on Sunday

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Maldives new President Mohamed Waheed Hassan is set to conduct a major cabinet expansion on Sunday, even as his deposed predecessor Mohammed Nasheed postponed his scheduled visit to his power centre Addu where his supporters had alleged a violent crackdown.

Government sources said a major cabinet expansion will take place on Sunday as the new president makes efforts to establish a 'national unity' government.

Soon after taking over as the new President, Hassan had made urgent appointments of retired Colonel Mohamed Nazim as the Defence Minister and lawyer Mohamed Jameel Ahmed as the Home Minister as the setting up of a national unity cabinet was taking time.

Waheed, whose first few days in office have been quite tumultuous, had called for chaos on the streets to stop and for restoration of peace and calm.

"The way of responsible leaders is not (to) cause strife among the people. The way of responsible leaders should be to resolve disputes peacefully through dialogue," he said in a statement yesterday.

Nasheed, who has refused to give up his claim as the legitimate leader of the country, was set to visit Addu city on Sunday but the visit was postponed earlier in the day.

Nasheed was set to fly out from here on Sunday afternoon to visit the atoll that had hosted the SAARC summit last year, but he postponed he plan due to unspecified reasons.

Addu city is the one of the major strongholds of the Maldivian Democratic Party of Nasheed, and was the only city besides Male that witnessed violence following his ouster. "The departure has been postponed," the party sources said saying further details will be given later on.

Nasheed and his party men have raised concern over the situation in Addu city where they alleged that their supporters had been beaten up and detained.

Maldives plunged into chaos this week as police joined weeks of street protests against Nasheed's government and soldiers defected, forcing him to step down.

Nasheed later said he was ousted in a coup, and there is an arrest warrant against him. However the new regime denies the coup claims and insists Nasheed stepped down voluntarily. It has made no move to arrest Nasheed.

In Addu, over a dozen police stations were attacked by MDP supporters, some of which were also burnt down. MDP has claimed that a number of people were arrested by the Maldivies National Defence Force on Saturday.

Even US Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake had on Saturday acknowledged the violence and alleged violation of human rights by the Maldivian army.

Nasheed was scheduled to make a day-long visit to the atoll and take stock of the situation. He was scheduled to fly back tonight itself.

"It is important for him to be seen there as it is his main stronghold," a party official said. Nasheed was also scheduled to meet a slew of foreign diplomats who have rushed in to defuse the crisis in the tourist paradise.

He also held parleys with a number of foreign envoys on Saturday including G. Ganapathi, Secretary (West) in the Ministry of External Affairs. While speaking to agencies on Saturday, Nasheed had said he was disappointed with India over its response to the political turmoil without having properly understood the ground situation in his country.

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