Police block Maldives protest over food prices

Maldives police, left, block protesters who tried to rally during an opposition-led demonstration against soaring prices in Male, Maldives, Friday, May 6, 2011 Police have been accused of using excessive violence

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Police in the Maldives have clashed with hundreds of protesters, preventing them from demonstrating in a square in central Male over soaring food prices.

Opposition-led demonstrators blame the government's monetary reform policies for the rising cost of goods.

They are demanding the resignation of the President, Mohammed Nasheed, saying he has failed to solve the Indian Ocean archipelago's economic problem.

The government says the protests risk harming the tourism-based economy.

Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem told reporters in Sri Lanka's capital, Colombo, that potential visitors might be scared away.

"Today, there is a planned big demonstration, which may go quite nasty," he said before the protests began.

"So, police have taken appropriate action to prevent any damage to public property, damage to people, and to keep order in the country."

Petrol bombs

There were a number of arrests in Male and some reports say people were injured during the clashes.

Protesters say that the decision to let the local currency, the rifiyaa, float against the dollar has caused the Maldives' economic problems.

Mr Nasheed's government blames a faction of the opposition DRP party for the unrest. It accuses them of throwing bricks and petrol bombs.

The DRP - led by Maumoon Abdul Gayoum, who was president for 30 years until 2008 - says it is the government who has let "thugs" loose.

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