Maldives security forces accused of 'excessive force'

Clash in the Maldives on 2 May 2011 The protesters are angered over rising prices

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The main opposition in the Maldives has accused the security forces of using excessive force to disperse protesters.

They have been on the streets for the past four days to demand the government address the country's economic woes.

An opposition spokesman told the BBC that more than 300 people had been injured in clashes between police and protesters in the past four days.

Police say they are taking action only against those people who damage public property or threaten violence.

Opposition groups say thousands have been taking part in protests against soaring prices of essential goods.

A spokesman for the main opposition DRP, or Maldivian People's Party, told the BBC that hundreds had been injured when police tried to break up the protests using batons and tear gas in the past few days.

A police official said they were not using excessive force and were taking action against those indulging in violence.

The protesters want President Mohammed Nasheed to step down if he cannot address the country's economic problems.

Opposition groups say the recent devaluation of the currency has increased the price of essential goods by about 30% in recent weeks.

But the government says the price hike is linked to the recent increase in global food and oil prices.

In a statement, the government wondered how the opposition would reduce the cost of living by throwing bricks and smashing windows.

The opposition protests are expected to continue overnight on Wednesday.

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