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Maldives president asks for unity while rioting rages on (+video)

Backers of the Maldives former president clashed with police while the country's new leader sought to bring unity to government after months of turmoil.

By Hussain Sinan & Krishan FrancisAssociated Press / February 8, 2012

Maldivian policemen chase supporters of Mohamed Nasheed, who resigned Tuesday from his post as Maldivian president, in Male, Maldives, Feb. 8. Supporters of Nasheed rioted through the streets of the capital Wednesday, throwing petrol bombs at police and demanding he be reinstated.

Sinan Hussain/AP

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Male, Maldives

Supporters of the Maldives former president rioted through the streets Wednesday demanding he be reinstated as the country's new leader appealed for unity to end the months of political turmoil roiling this Indian Ocean island nation.

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  • Maldives

    Graphic Maldives
    (Rich Clabaugh/Staff)

Mohamed Nasheed, the nation's first democratically elected president, said he had been forced to resign at gunpoint Tuesday in what he termed a coup. He demanded his successor resign and he promised to fight to return to office.

"We will come to power again," Nasheed said. "We will never step back. I will not accept this coup and will bring justice to the Maldivians."

President Mohammed Waheed Hassan, the former vice president, took office Tuesday when Nasheed resigned after police joined relentless street protests against his government.

Addressing a news conference Wednesday, Hassan denied claims there was a coup or a plot to oust Nasheed. He said he had not prepared to take over the country and he called for the creation of a unity coalition to help it recover.

"Together, I am confident, we'll be able to build a stable and democratic country," he said, adding that his government intended to respect the rule of law.

Later in the day, he appeared to be consolidating his power by appointing a new military chief and police commissioner.

Nasheed insisted he was pushed from power by the armed forces.

"I was forced to resign with guns all around me. They told me, if I don't resign, they won't hesitate to use arms," he said.

Speaking to about 2,000 wildly cheering members of his Maldivian Democratic Party in the capital, Male, he called for Hassan's immediate resignation and demanded the nation's top judge investigate those he said were responsible for his ouster.

Nasheed then led an anti-government demonstration. Police responded by firing tear gas and arresting two parliamentarians from Nasheed's party.

"If the police are going to confront us we are going to face them," Nasheed told the rally. "We have to overcome our fear and we have to get strength."

Nasheed's supporters began rioting, throwing fire bombs and vandalizing a private TV station that had been critical of Nasheed's government.

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