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Maldives Apologizes to Couple Conned by Maldives Marriage Officiator

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Two Swiss tourists who chose the Maldives' white-sand beaches as the setting to renew their marriage vows were instead mocked by the officiator, who chanted abuse and curses in the local language at the unsuspecting couple.

The ceremony, posted on YouTube with English subtitles translating the abuse, has embarrassed the Maldives, and President Mohammed Nasheed condemned it as "absolutely disgraceful." Police arrested the celebrant and a helper -- an apparent damage-control bid for the country whose economy is driven by tourism.

Click here to view the video.

Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed "personally apologised" to the couple in a telephone conversation on Saturday afternoon, his office said in a statement.

"President Nasheed explained to the couple -- who have requested anonymity -- that the Maldives Police Service have arrested two members of the resort's staff who conducted the renewal of vows ceremony.

"The president said he will personally oversee an overhaul of the way wedding vows ceremonies are conducted in the Maldives," the statement said adding new regulations for resort weddings will be in place within a week.

Earlier, the Maldivian ambassador in Geneva conveyed to the couple the government's "profound and heartfelt apologies," the government said.

A video of the ceremony said to have taken place on October 11, during which the hapless couple were taunted and subjected to insulting and religious-tinged abuse.

The video has sparked fears for the Islamic country's tourism-dependent economy.
The Vilu Reef hotel initially identified the victims as Swiss but a senior tourism source in the Maldives told AFP they were French. Maldivian authorities declined to confirm their nationality.

However, Maldivian Foreign Minister Ahmed Shaheed said soon after the video was posted on YouTube that he was expressing his "intense regret" to European authorities.

The Foreign Ministry will also be writing to its counterparts in Europe "to offer our intense regret", Shaheed said in a statement.

Maldivian police have arrested the hotel employee who conducted the ceremony and used profanities throughout the renewal of wedding vows by the couple, who paid 1,300 dollars for the event.

"We have started investigations and are treating this as a very serious matter," police spokesman Ahmed Shiyam told AFP by telephone from the capital island Male.

He said the two men were taken before a magistrate who ordered them to be detained for five days. Both are being held at a Male police station, he added.

British comic Russell Brand and US pop star Katy Perry are the latest celebrities to head to the Indian Ocean nation for a honeymoon after tying the knot in India last weekend.

The Vilu Reef hotel said it was "unforgivable" that a staff member had read out the sexual and religious slurs in the Dhivehi language, and apologised for his conduct.

"You are swine," the couple were told. "The children that you bear from this marriage will all be bastard swine.

"Your marriage is not a valid one. You are not the kind of people who can have a valid marriage.

One of you is an infidel. The other, too, is an infidel and, we have reason to believe, an atheist."
The wife, wearing a white dress and carrying a bouquet, and her husband smile shyly through the ceremony.

In front of a table decorated with incense sticks, the English-speaking couple bow their heads in prayer through the torrent of accusations, curses and swearing.

The republic of the Maldives, a nation of palm-fringed islands scattered in the Indian Ocean, is one of the world's most exclusive honeymoon destinations and its economy relies heavily on tourism.

AFP contributed to this report.