MALE // Several thousand supporters of the former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed clashed with police and troops in riot gear yesterday, a day after his resignation that he blamed on a coup.
Mr Nasheed was among the crowd that rallied in the centre of the capital in a square next to the police and military headquarters.
Chanting slogans in support of Mr Nasheed, the protesters threw stones and security personnel responded with tear gas and pepper spray, finally forcing the crowd back and away from the square.
"We're not going to stop," said Mohamed Abdulla, a supporter of Mr Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). "We'll just regroup and protest elsewhere."
Mr Nasheed had led the crowd into the square following a meeting of the MDP leadership, which passed a resolution calling the new administration of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manick illegitimate.
Earlier, Mr Manick called for a unity government to lead his nation. He took office on Tuesday when Mr Nasheed resigned after police joined protests against his government.
Mr Manick denied claims there was a plot to topple Mr Nasheed. He said he had not prepared to take over the country and he called for the creation of a unity coalition to help the country recover from months of political turmoil.
"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.
Mr Nasheed responded by insisting he was forced from office in a coup and demanded Mr Manick's immediate resignation.
He demanded the nation's top judge investigate those he says were responsible for his removal.
The party reaffirmed Mr Nasheed as its leader and declared it would not join Mr Manick's planned coalition.
"We will come to power again," Mr Nasheed said. "We will never step back. I will not accept this coup and will bring justice to the Maldivians."
Police were investigating the discovery of at least 100 bottles of alcohol inside a lorry removing rubbish on Tuesday from the presidential residence as Mr Nasheed prepared to relinquish power, said the police spokesman Ahmed Shyam. Consuming alcohol outside tourist resorts is a crime in the Maldives. If charged and convicted of possession of alcohol, Mr Nasheed could be sent to jail for three years, banished to a distant island, placed under house arrest or fined.
* Agence France-Presse with additional reporting by the Associated Press