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US rules out permanent military presence in Maldives

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WASHINGTON (PTI): The US has ruled out a permanent military base in the Maldives, amid reports that new government in Male has decided not to sign a defence cooperation pact with Washington in this regard.

"The US has not and is not considering a permanent military presence in the Maldives. We continue to share a close bilateral defence relationship on areas of mutual interest," Pentagon spokesperson Lt Col Jeffery Pool told PTI.

He was responding to questions about the decision of the new Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen not to sign the status of the forces agreement (SOFA) as proposed by the US.

"I would refer you to the Government of Maldives regarding their rationale for President Yameen's decision about not pursuing a potential Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the United States," Pool said.

Early this week, Yameen told reporters in Sri Lanka that a SOFA would have given the United States a foothold in his archipelago located across the main east-west sea route.

"There have been discussions before...we are not going to pursue it," he said during his visit to Colombo.

Maldivian officials have said the proposed deal would have given the US military access to two atolls in the nation of 1,192 tiny coral islands scattered in the Indian Ocean.

The US military already had a considerable presence in Diego Garcia, a British territory, about 700 kilometres south of the Maldivian archipelago.

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