March 17, 2017 / 10:29 AM / in 10 months

Saudi king postpones visit to Maldives over flu outbreak

(Reuters) - Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has postponed a visit to the Maldives due to an outbreak of flu, the government of the Indian Ocean archipelago said on Friday.

Salman, who is on a month-long Asian tour, was due to visit the Maldives on Saturday.

The visit “has been postponed due to the high prevalence of the flu in the Maldives,” the government said in a statement, adding that a new date would be confirmed.

The Maldives has been hit by an outbreak of flu, with some cases showing signs of H1N1 influenza A, or swine flu.

The government said this month a planned multibillion dollar, Saudi-funded investment project on one of its atolls would focus on high-end tourism, and it rejected opposition claims that the islands would be sold to the government of Saudi Arabia.

Maldives former president Mohamed Nasheed’s party early this month said the project would effectively give a foreign power control over Faafu atoll in a form of colonialization by Saudi Arabia. There have been public protests about the project over the suspected land sale it involves.

Despite its reputation as a tourist paradise, the largely Muslim island chain of 400,000 people is struggling with a large number of youths enlisting to fight for Islamic State in the Middle East.

The opposition says allowing Saudi influence in the country would result in more radicalization.

Reporting by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Nick Macfie

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