Thursday, July 22, 2010

U.S., U.K. Issues Advisories Against Travel To Maldives Capital

The United States and the U.K. issued Wednesday travel advisories to their respective citizens, warning them against traveling to Male, the capital of the Maldives, in view of the violent street protests triggered by a political crisis.

Since last month, a bitter power struggle between President Mohamed 'Anni' Nasheed and the opposition parties is on in the Indian Ocean archipelago-nation. Last week, more than nine police officers and six civilians were injured in several street demonstrations in Male.

In separate warnings issued online, Britain and the U.S. noted that demonstrations in Male could spiral out of control and warned visitors to avoid large political gatherings and state buildings.

"The demonstrations have not targeted foreigners, and there have not been any demonstrations in the resort islands or outside of Male," the U.S. embassy in Colombo added.

Maldives, an upmarket tourism destination, is famous for its beaches and turquoise waters and most tourist resorts are located outside capital Male. Most of the tourists travel straight from the island's airport to their resorts without going to the capital.

Meanwhile, the U.S., which has been urging the Maldives to accept offers of international mediation to resolve the political deadlock, called on President Nasheed and opposition parties to sort out their differences and work towards serving the needs of the Maldivians.

"I am sorry to see the absence of understanding between the government and the opposition parties," Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake told reporters in Colombo ahead of his Thursday's one-day visit to the nation of 314,000 Sunni Muslims.

Blake said Wednesday his visit was aimed at continuing the dialogue between the warring parties, and to try to narrow down their differences.

"If I can narrow the disputes, I will be happy to do so, to help de-fuse the situation," said Blake who was also the ambassador for Sri Lanka and concurrently the Maldives, prior to his present appointment last May.

Blake's visit closely follows that of U.S. Ambassador Patricia Butenis and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse, who travelled to the Maldives in recent weeks for separate meetings to defuse the crisis there.

In 1988, Maldives shot into prominence, when a group of LTTE supporters wrested control of the island from President Abdul Gayoum. At the request of the U.S., Indian paratroopers were airlifted there who crushed the revolt.


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