Maldives' new president expands cabinet amid crisis
MALE (Reuters) - The Maldives' new president on Sunday expanded his cabinet amid a political stalemate with ex-president Mohamed Nasheed, who since leaving office last week in what he calls a coup has vowed to stage street protests unless new elections are held.
The new cabinet members are almost all veterans of the government of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled the Maldives for 30 years until Nasheed beat him at a historic election in 2008.
Nasheed, the Maldives' first democratically elected president, says he was ousted in a coup carried out on Tuesday by mutinying police and military officers, who forced him to step down.
New President Mohamed Waheed Hussain Manik says his predecessor resigned voluntarily, and that his assuming of power after previously serving as vice-president is constitutional.
Tempers appeared to have cooled on Male, the capital of the 1,200-island archipelago nation best known as one of the world's top get-away-from-it-all beach holiday destinations.
Nasheed late on Saturday spoke to several thousand supporters in Male, and the rally dispersed without violence or a visible security force presence.
Diplomats from the United States, Britain, India, United Nations and Commonwealth are in the Maldives pressing for an independent inquiry after Nasheed quit on Tuesday and the next day, rallied supporters for protests that ended in violence.
So far, Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has refused to recognize the new government. 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.
Waheed has called for a national unity government, and on Saturday said he was open to an independent probe into the circumstances around Nasheed's exit. He has ruled out presidential elections before they are due in October 2013.
Notable among Waheed's appointments on Sunday was Aishath Azima Shakooru, who returns as attorney general after serving in that position under the Gayoom administration. She has never lost a case.
Shakooru was the defense attorney in a spate of cases brought by Nasheed's government against former Gayoom allies involving multi-million dollar corruption scandals.
She also defended Chief Criminal Court Justice Adbulla Mohamed, whose arrest by the military at Nasheed's order on January 16 set off three weeks of opposition-led protests that culminated in the security forces' mutiny.
Nasheed said the chief justice, like 200 other criminal court judges, had been illegally sworn in for a life term and was illegally blocking the graft cases.
The judge after his release from military detention issued an arrest warrant against Nasheed, who remains free. The details of the arrest warrant remain shrouded in mystery.
(Editing by Ron Popeski)
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