Maldives' 1st president

Times Staff and Wire Reports

Ibrahim Nasir, 82, who led the Maldives' independence movement from the British and became the archipelago's first president, died Saturday at a Singapore hospital, Ahmed Shaeed, the foreign minister of the Maldives, announced. The cause of death was not announced.

Born Sept. 2, 1926, Nasir was only 31 when he was named his country's prime minister under sultan Muhammad Fareed Didi. Nasir held the post from 1957 to 1968. In 1965 he signed an agreement with the British that granted independence for the Indian Ocean island nation.

In 1968, he became the Maldives' first president. He modernized the country's fishing industry, brought English-based curriculum to government-run schools and introduced tourism, for which the Maldives is now world famous. He also built the country's first international airport. But his tenure was also marked by charges that he ruled as a dictator. He resigned and fled the country in 1978 amid public resentment and unproven allegations of corruption in handling public funds. He spent much of the rest of his life in Singapore.

His body was flown to the Maldives on Saturday for public viewing at the president's office and a burial service Sunday.

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