Thu, Jul 02, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Honduras faces more isolation

DPA AND AFP , WASHINGTON AND TEGUCIGALPA

Supporters of ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya gather near the presidential residence in Tegucigalpa on Tuesday.

PHOTO: AP

The Organization of American States (OAS) yesterday ordered Honduras to reinstate ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya within 72 hours or be expelled from the bloc.

Zelaya was arrested and exiled to Costa Rica on Sunday in a coup ordered by the country’s Supreme Court, reportedly to stop him from attempting to change the constitution and seek a second term.

OAS secretary-general Jose Miguel Insulza said yesterday the bloc would seek a vote to suspend Honduras if the newly installed government of Roberto Micheletti refuses to reinstate Zelaya. A two-thirds majority is needed to suspend a country from the inter-American body.

The OAS convened an extraordinary session of the bloc’s general assembly on Tuesday to deal with the Honduran constitutional crisis. Insulza said the organization headquartered in Washington would seek an expulsion vote on Saturday, although it is a US national holiday.

The OAS and the administration of US President Barack Obama both said they would reject a delegation from the newly installed Honduran government.

Albert Ramdin, OAS assistant secretary general, said the bloc would not receive a delegation reportedly headed to Washington to seek recognition yesterday.

“OAS member states have said very clearly that they don’t recognize anybody other than president Zelaya as the constitutional president of Honduras,” Ramdin said.

Micheletti, a former speaker of the Honduran Congress, was named to lead the post-coup government and threatened Tuesday to have Zelaya arrested if he followed through on plans to return to the country today.

A senior US administration official said Washington “does not receive representatives from a de facto government.”

Honduras braced for more protests yesterday and threatened to immediately arrest Zelaya if he returned.

As tensions rose in the capital, unidentified attackers hurled a grenade, which failed to explode, at the Supreme Court late on Tuesday.

After winning the backing of the UN General Assembly for his bid to return to power, Zelaya was expected in Washington yesterday for meetings with US officials before heading back to Honduras.

But Honduran Attorney General Luis Alberto Rubi warned that Zelaya would “immediately” be arrested if he returned to Honduras, where legal officials have accused him of 18 crimes, including “treason” and “abuse of authority.”

Apparently seeking to defuse tensions, Zelaya said in New York he would not seek a second term in office — a concession on a key issue that detonated the Honduran crisis.

“If offered the possibility to remain in power [for a second term], I would not do it,” he told a press conference in New York.

“I am going to fulfill my term up until Jan. 27,” he said.

Honduras has become increasingly isolated, with financial institutions, including the World Bank and regional banks, ordering the suspension of loans and payments to the impoverished country of some 7.5 million people.

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said Madrid wanted the EU to recall its ambassadors, following similar actions by Mexico and Chile.

If he returns to Honduras as promised, Zelaya probably will be accompanied by the head of the OAS Jose Miguel Insulza and Argentine President Cristina Kirchner.

Many, however, fear his return could spark clashes between his supporters and opponents. On Monday, angry protesters defied a curfew to fight riot police with clubs and stones near the presidential palace in Tegucigalpa.

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