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.

 

Hamas says US unity comments ‘blatant interference’

UN urges de-escalation in Iraq

Erdogan says may shut Iraqi border at any moment

Haley: Iran must be judged in totality of its aggressive behaviour

Jobless Tunisians seek new migration routes to Europe

Baghdad court issues arrest warrant for Iraqi Kurd VP

Raqa liberators ready for civilian handover, on to next battle

Power shifts again in Iraq's multi-ethnic Kirkuk

Revolutionary Guards say Iranian missile program will continue

Turkish police hold civil society figure at airport

Erdogan calls on three major mayors to resign

ICC investigating several war crimes in Mali

Tunisian couple jailed for 'public indecency' over car kiss

Next round of Syria talks at end October

Gazans hope Palestinian reconciliation ends their woes

PSG's Khelaifi to be quizzed in Swiss World Cup probe

EU says Israeli settlements illegal under international law

Kurdish independence goes from dream to dust

Female commander more than just poster girl for Raqa victory

Saudi airline flies to Baghdad for first time in 27 years

Wanted Dead: France's approach to IS jihadists

Saudi Arabia to monitor interpretations of prophet's sayings

Italy busts Libyan diesel smugglers

Khamenei vows to 'shred' nuclear deal if US pulls out

Fate of IS fighters in Raqa uncertain

Turkish Red Crescent concerned by Idlib humanitarian ‘drama’

US firm to build solar plants in Gaza

Ghost city Raqa scanned for survivors, bombs

Bahrain accuses Iran of harbouring 160 'terrorists'

Qatar says Gulf crisis hindering fight against IS

Qatar emir calls for talks on visit to Indonesia

Iraq calls on BP to help develop Kirkuk oil

Israeli forces raid Palestinian media offices linked to Hamas

French parliament is set to pass new anti-terror law

Baghdad says mission accomplished in Kurd operation

Israel says no to Palestine talks until Hamas disarms

IS territory down to almost 10% of 2014 ‘caliphate’

Over 3000 civilians flee Raqa under deal with jihadists

Ideology and objectives clash at Deir Ezzor

Erdogan gets Polish backing on Turkey's EU bid

Iranian guards commander killed in Syria

Fitch Ratings says threat to Qatar liquidity fading

Iran warns EU against new nuclear deal conditions

Turkey activists face trial next week under terror charges

Netanyahu presses Russian defence minister on Iran