Maldives deny 'Saudi islands sale' as anti-Riyadh protests grow
The Maldives has denied it has sold a small group of islands to Saudi Arabia, after growing anti-Riyadh protests in the Indian Ocean island state.
Male's main opposition group the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have led protests against the decision and accused President Abdulla Yameen of ceding control of the inhabited atoll of Faafu to Saudi Arabia.
It comes days ahead of a planned visit by Saudi King Salman to the Muslim-majority country.
The government denied the sale of the islands but did say it was looking for foreign investment in the area, after whose king is due to visit the country.
Police have arrested locals protesting against the alleged land sale, which follows a law being lifted in 2015 banning the sale of land to foreigners.
Male released a statement saying they are working with "a range of international investors" to develop Faafu island with plans for apartments, tourist resorts and airports in the area.
"The administration categorically rebuts allegations that the atoll has been 'sold off' to a foreign entity," it said.
Saudi King Salman is on a three-week Asian tour and is due to visit the Indian Ocean island on Thursday.
The Maldives has grown closed to Saudi Arabia in recent years, with Male cutting ties with Iran following a spat between Riyadh and Tehran.
Agencies contributed to this story.