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Maldives opposition threatens to boycott election

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BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI | February 19, 2013 12:25 PM EST | AP

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Maldives' main opposition party will boycott a presidential election scheduled in September unless it is held under a transitional government, a party spokesman said Tuesday.

Ahmed Naseem, a former foreign minister and a spokesman for the Maldivian Democratic Party, said the party doesn't trust President Mohammed Waheed Hassan to hold a fair election. He said the party wants a transitional government led by the speaker of Parliament for two months as allowed under the constitution of the Indian Ocean nation.

"An interim government and then elections. Nothing else. If these arrangements are not made, the MDP will not participate in the election," Naseem told reporters in Colombo in neighboring Sri Lanka. Maldives is scheduled to hold its second multiparty presidential election on Sept. 7.

The country's former president, MDP leader Nasheed, has taken refuge in the Indian embassy since last Wednesday, when a court ordered his arrest for not appearing to face charges that he illegally ordered the arrest of a senior judge while president.

On Tuesday, the Maldives foreign ministry asked the Indian ambassador to release Nasheed to police, but there has been no response, government spokesman Masood Imad said. Maldives police on Monday sought the foreign ministry's help to arrest Nasheed after a court issued a second arrest warrant for him.

Nasheed says the charges are politically motivated to disqualify him from running in the presidential election.

Nasheed became the Maldives' first democratically elected president in 2008, ending a 30-year autocracy. He resigned as president last year after losing the support of the military and police during weeks of public protests over the judge's detention. His deputy, Hassan, succeeded him.

An inquiry commission last year dismissed Nasheed's claim that he was ousted in a coup.

Maldives police said they have asked for help from the Foreign Ministry in arresting Nasheed from the embassy.

The Indian government has said it will deal with Nasheed on a day-to-day basis.