First Published: 2017-03-17

Saudi king cancels Maldives visit over swine flu fears
King Salman cancels trip to politically-troubled Maldives as part of Asia tour due to outbreak of swine flu in its capital.
Middle East Online

Saudi king currently in China

MALE - The Saudi king has cancelled a scheduled visit to the politically-troubled atoll nation of the Maldives because of an outbreak of swine flu in its capital, the government in Male announced Friday.

The Maldives was to be the final stop in the monarch's ongoing Asian tour that has already taken him to Malaysia, Indonesia, China and Japan.

Foreign Minister Mohamed Asim said a new date for King Salman's trip to the Indian Ocean archipelago would be announced later.

Dozens of people tested positive this month for the H1N1 influenza strain, also known as swine flu, Maldivian health authorities said. Two people have died so far.

The government has ordered the closure of schools in the one-square-mile (2.5-square-kilometre) capital island of Male to prevent the spread of the disease and has discouraged residents in neighbouring islets from visiting.

The country's main opposition, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), had protested the planned state visit, accusing President Abdulla Yameen of planning to sell an atoll to Saudi investors, a charge the government has denied.

"With growing public outrage and strong opposition to President Yameen's attempts to sell-off Faafu atoll to the Saudi royal family, the MDP feels that the time is not right for the royal visit," the party said in a statement.

Yameen lifted a ban on foreign ownership of real estate in 2015.

Land is scarce in the Maldives where 99.9 percent of its territory is sea and the nation's 1,192 tiny coral islands account for just 300 square kilometres (115 square miles) of land.

However, the islands are strategically located -- scattered some 800 kilometres (500 miles) across the equator -- straddling the main East-West international shipping lanes.

The country is a popular upmarket holiday destination but its image has been hit by political unrest in recent years.

Opposition leader and former president Mohamed Nasheed is currently living in exile in London after he was jailed on terror-related charges widely criticised as politically motivated.

 

UN Security Council calls for Polisario pullback from Guerguerat

UK warns of ‘increased level of terrorist activity’

Merkel warns EU-Turkey ties 'severely hit' by Ankara developments

Pope Francis flies to Egypt as 'pilgrim of peace'

420 tonnes of plastic bags seized in year in Morocco since ban

Erdogan to rejoin Turkey ruling party next week

Germany urges EU not to break off Turkey accession talks

OPCW says chemical weapons allegedly used 45 times in Syria

Netanyahu slams German foreign minster as 'insensitive'

Erdogan hopes for 'new page' with US under Trump

UN envoy to Libya to visit Sudan for peace talks

Tunisian PM booed out of town hall meet

Russian spy ship sinks off Turkish coast

London police arrest ‘terror act’ knifeman by parliament

Palestinians strike in support of protesting prisoners

Two Saudi soldiers killed in rocket attack near Yemen border

German soldier plots attack under refugee disguise

Iraq forces retake town of Hatra from IS

Syria accuses Israel of strike near Damascus airport

10 dead after strikes on rebel-held hospitals in Syria

Turkey’s AKP to hold special congress readmitting Erdogan

EU reviews Libya request for naval equipment

Jail terms over death of Moroccan fishmonger

UN appoints Syrian Olympic swimmer as ambassador

Bahraini activist on hunger strike behind bars

Calls on Saudi social media for jobless protest

Tunisian coastguards no match for high-speed smugglers

US wants 'strong, democratic' Turkey: ambassador

Israeli tank trades shots with Hamas in Gaza

Syria says France 'hiding truth' about chemical attack

NATO chief warns Turkey to respect ‘rule of law’

Exiled Turkish journalist urges EU to confront Erdogan

Mass funeral for dozens slain in Syria bus attack

Qatar insists Baghdad had ‘full knowledge’ of hostage deal

UN eyes new Yemen peace talks

Erdogan resumes Gulen arrests after referendum win

Turkey opposition heads to European court to challenge referendum

Turkey says informed US, Russia prior to Kurdish strikes

Iraqi forces liberate ancient city of Hatra from IS

Saudi fire stops explosives-laden boat from Yemen

50 Syria migrants stranded on Morocco-Algeria border

Libya asks EU for patrol boats to stem migrant wave

Bangladesh approves Saudi-funded mosque project

German Chancellor regrets Israel snub of foreign minister

Global leaders call for ridding world 'forever' of chemical arms