UN leader calls for speedy Maldives vote

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - UN leader Ban Ki Moon on Monday joined international opposition to the cancellation of a presidential election in the Maldives that has heightened tensions in the Indian Ocean nation.

Mr Ban is "deeply concerned" by the new delay in the vote and called for "political leaders and state institutions to live up to their responsibilities, respect the democratic process and participate in a credible, peaceful and inclusive re-run election as soon as possible," said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky.

Maldives police on Saturday halted an election runoff that opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed was expected to win. The European Union and India have also expressed deep concern.

Mr Nasheed, who was toppled as Maldives leader 20 months ago, has called on President Mohamed Waheed to step down and let the speaker of parliament conduct a fresh presidential vote.

Mr Ban said the vote should be held as quickly as possible so that "a new president can be inaugurated on 11 November in accordance with the constitution," said the UN spokesman.

"The aspirations and the will of the Maldivian people were expressed in the 88 per cent participation of eligible voters in the September 7 election. The secretary general strongly believes that the legitimate will of the people should not be denied," said Mr Nesirky.

The UN has sent an envoy to the Maldives several times in a bid to press for a negotiated end to political tensions in the state, which adopted multi-party democracy in 2008.

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