Maldives hit by third night of anti-government protests

People cover their noses and run for cover as riot police use tear gas in Male Riot police used tear gas to disperse protesters on Monday night of unrest

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Police in the Maldives have used tear gas to break up a third night of violent protests, the opposition says.

They say that a crowd of about 2,000 clashed with the security forces in the capital, Male.

The opposition and its supporters accuse the government of mishandling the economy. Prices have risen sharply in recent months.

The protesters are calling on the president to resign. Police accused them of damaging public buildings.

The Maldivian government has blamed the opposition for the continuing protests over rising prices, the latest round in a long fight between supporters of reformist President Mohamed Nasheed and supporters of his predecessor Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, whose 30-year period in power came to an end in 2008.

In a statement presidential spokesman Mohamed Zuhair accused Mr Gayoom of "taking advantage of the economic situation to cause violence in the streets".

"In the Middle East, you have democrats on the streets bringing down dictatorships. Ironically, in the Maldives, the remnants of the former dictatorship are trying to bring down a democratically elected government," Mr Zuhair said.

But a spokesman for Mr Gayoom's DRP, or Maldivian People's Party, accused the president of talking about democracy but not putting it into practice.

"Nasheed is a despot and he is simply clinging onto power using the riot police and armed forces. His popularity is now at a paltry 18%," DRP spokesman Mohamed Hussain Shareef said.

Mr Shareef said the protests were a manifestation of popular discontent over double-digit inflation, rising unemployment and government corruption.

The Maldives, an archipelago of about 1,200 islands scattered in the Indian Ocean, is entirely dependent on imports, and tourism is one of its major sources of revenue.

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