OAS gives Honduran coup leaders 3 days

July 1, 2009 10:59:28 AM PDT
The Pentagon said Wednesday it has suspended joint military operations with Honduras to protest a coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya, a move that suggests the U.S. could further curtail dealings with the new Honduran government. "We've postponed any activities in Honduras right now as we assess that situation," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

Whitman would not be specific, but the suspension could have broad implications because the United States runs a large Central American security and counternarcotics operation from a jointly run air base in Honduras. Whitman said only operations affecting Honduras itself are on hold.

The U.S. government is reviewing further moves to protest the coup. That could include suspension of U.S. aid and other government contacts.

Meanwhile, the Organization of American States said Wednesday that Honduran coup leaders have three days to restore Zelaya to power before Honduras risks being suspended from the group.

The OAS demand prompted Zelaya, who was ousted from Honduras on Sunday, to announce he was putting off until the weekend his plans to return home. He told reporters that he planned to fly to Panama to attend Wednesday's inauguration of Panamanian President-elect Ricardo Martinelli.

OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza delivered what he called "an ultimatum" as OAS talks regarding the crisis dragged into the early morning hours. The talks began Tuesday afternoon.

In a sharply worded resolution, the OAS said it vehemently condemned the coup and "the arbitrary detention and expulsion" of Zelaya.

The Obama administration has condemned Zelaya's ouster, calling it illegal, and urged that he be returned to power. The State Department's top diplomat for the Americas, Thomas Shannon, met Tuesday evening with Zelaya, but department officials offered no word Wednesday on the outcome of the talks.

The coup, the OAS resolution said, has produced an "unconstitutional alteration of the democratic order." The envoys demanded Zelaya's immediate and safe return to power.

Calling Zelaya's overthrow an "old-fashioned coup," Insulza said: "We need to show clearly that military coups will not be accepted. We thought we were in an era when military coups were no longer possible in this hemisphere."

Zelaya has said he intends to return home accompanied by Insulza, the presidents of Argentina and Ecuador and the head of the U.N. General Assembly to seek restoration of his authority.

Roberto Micheletti, named by Honduras' Congress as the new president, said Tuesday that Zelaya could be met with an arrest warrant if he returned.

Zelaya met Tuesday night with envoys to the OAS to discuss what Argentina's foreign minister called an urgent and dangerous situation in Honduras.

Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana and other Western Hemisphere ambassadors waited for 3 1/2 hours as Zelaya made his way from New York, where earlier Tuesday the U.N. General Assembly denounced the military coup that drove him from power Sunday. They demanded his immediate return to office.

Taiana, who presided over the special session of the 34-nation assembly, said if the diplomatic approach does not prevail, "we have to take the decision to suspend Honduras in its rights and duties in this organization."

When Zelaya arrived at the OAS building on Constitution Avenue, within blocks of the White House, he met first with Insulza. Zelaya has called the coup the work of "a small group of usurpers" who carried out "an act of aggression attacking the democratic will of the people."

Albert Rambin, the OAS' assistant secretary-general, said Micheletti intended to send a Honduran delegation to the OAS, but it would not be accepted. Insulza, asked if he would meet with such a delegation, said: "I do not plan to. I do not intend to."

The U.N. adopted a resolution calling on all 192 U.N. member states not to recognize any government in Honduras other than Zelaya's.

At the White House, press secretary Robert Gibbs said there are no plans to recall the U.S. ambassador to Honduras.

The United States said it saw no acceptable solution to Zelaya's ouster other than returning him to power. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters that the U.S. was still reviewing whether to cut off aid to the Central American nation.

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