Diplomat urges restoration of deposed president

A top diplomat said he is heading to Honduras to demand the return of the president toppled at gunpoint – a mission he said is likely to meet rejection, bringing diplomatic and economic punishment for the impoverished Central American nation.

The head of the Organisation of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza, said he plans to travel to Honduras today to insist on the restoration of President Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted in a coup on Sunday.

“I will do everything I can. But I think it will be very hard to turn things around in a couple of days,” Mr Insulza said at a summit of Caribbean leaders in Georgetown, Guyana.

“We are not going to Honduras to negotiate. We are going to Honduras to ask them to change what they have been doing.”

The interim government of Roberto Micheletti has so far shown little willingness to do so, arguing that the army acted legally – on orders of Congress and the Supreme Court – when it raided Mr Zelaya’s house amid the rattle of gunfire and deported him, still in his pyjamas.

Giving a first hint of flexibility, Mr Micheletti said yesterday in response to a reporter’s question that he would be open to moving up presidential elections from their scheduled date of November 29 if it would ease the crisis.

However, he did not mention any date and neither Mr Zelaya nor any international body has formally proposed that.

Mr Micheletti also said he feared violence if Mr Zelaya returned to Honduras, as he has promised to do this weekend.

“For the peace of the country I would prefer that he did not come, because I do not want one drop of blood shed by any Honduran,” the interim leader said.

The OAS says it will suspend Honduras if Mr Zelaya isn’t back in office by tomorrow, bringing sanctions that could block international aid to one of the poorest nations in the hemisphere.

Nations around the world have promised to shun Mr Micheletti, who was sworn in after the Sunday coup, and the nation already is suffering economic reprisals.

Neighbouring countries have imposed trade blockades, major lenders have cut aid, the Obama administration has halted joint military operations and all European Union ambassadors have abandoned the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa.

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