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UN tells Honduras to reinstate president

 A supporter of ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya throws back a canister of tear gas back at  soldiers after violence broke out near the preside...
 A soldier shoots at supporters of ousted Honduras' President Manuel Zelaya after violence broke out near the presidential residence in Tegucigalpa, M...
 Honduran President Manuel Zelaya addresses the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday, June 30, 2009. Zelaya was ousted Sunday in a military coup. (...

APTOPIX Honduras Coup

A supporter of ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya throws back a canister of tear gas back at soldiers after violence broke out near the preside...

APTOPIX Honduras Coup

A soldier shoots at supporters of ousted Honduras' President Manuel Zelaya after violence broke out near the presidential residence in Tegucigalpa, M...

UN Honduras

Honduran President Manuel Zelaya addresses the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday, June 30, 2009. Zelaya was ousted Sunday in a military coup. (...

Honduras' ousted president won overwhelming international support Tuesday as he planned a high-profile return to his chaotic country. The politicians who sent soldiers to shoot up his residence and fly him into exile in his pajamas said he will be arrested for treason if he tries.
The showdown was building to a climax as international leaders signed on to accompany President Manuel Zelaya on a flight to Honduras on Thursday. The U.N. General Assembly demanded Zelaya's immediate restoration, and the Organization of American States was meeting to consider suspending Honduras for straying from democracy.
"The resolution that the United Nations has just adopted unanimously ... expresses the indignation of the people of Honduras and of people worldwide," a triumphant Zelaya told the assembly in New York. "This resolution is historic."
With no international support but a significant following at home, the new Honduran leadership called thousands of flag-waving people into the streets. Soldiers fenced off the area around the presidential palace, where security forces used tear gas and water cannons Monday against Zelaya supporters, injuring and arresting dozens.
The interim president named by Congress, Roberto Micheletti, said Zelaya could be arrested for violating the constitution if he returns. On the day of his arrest, Zelaya had defied the Supreme Court and called a referendum on constitutional change that opponents worried would lead to a Venezuela-style socialist state.
Micheletti promised to serve only until the end of Zelaya's term in January.
"We're heading toward the elections in November," Micheletti, flanked by soldiers in camouflage, told some 5,000 cheering supporters in white and blue, the colors of the Honduran flag. "We will hand over the presidential sash to whomever the people choose."
Attorney General Luis Alberto Rubi said Zelaya would be arrested "as soon as he sets foot on Honduran soil" and faces at least 20 years in prison for treason, abuse of authority and other charges.
"We have already issued an international arrest warrant to capture the former president anywhere in the world," he said.
Micheletti's foreign minister, Enrique Ortez, threw a wild card onto the table, telling CNN en Espanol that Zelaya had been letting drug traffickers ship U.S.-bound cocaine from Venezuela through Honduras. Ortez said the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration was aware of Zelaya's ties to organized crime.
Spokesman Rusty Payne could neither confirm or deny a DEA investigation.
The United States stood firmly by Zelaya, however, with State Department spokesman Ian Kelly saying Washington sees no acceptable solution other than Zelaya's return to power. He said the United States is considering cutting off aid to Honduras.
Zelaya vowed to return to Honduras on Thursday, escorted by the presidents of Argentina, Ecuador and the U.N. General Assembly, as well as the head of the OAS. He said he wants to serve out his term, then go back to being a farmer _ a humble description considering the wealth he has accumulated in ranching and agribusiness.
He said his opponents have no option but to accept his return to the presidency.
But Micheletti was defiant, saying at a news conference that Zelaya will be arrested if he tries to return.
"He has several accusations and arrest warrants for crimes he committed previously," Micheletti said.
The U.N. vote by acclamation added to an avalanche of international denunciations of the military's removal of Zelaya on Sunday, which recalled the dark days of dictatorship for which Latin America was long notorious. The world body called on all 192 U.N. member states to recognize only Zelaya's government in Honduras.
The Organization of American States planned an emergency meeting in Washington hours later to reinforce the pressure to reinstate Zelaya. It was considering suspending Honduras under an agreement meant to prevent military coups.
Mexico and Colombia's conservative governments joined the region's leftist leaders in condemning Zelaya's removal. Blocked trucks began lining up along Honduras' borders as neighboring countries imposed a trade ban.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Zelaya's top ally, urged a rebellion by the Honduran people, and vowed to halt shipments of subsidized oil, though Honduras gets most of its oil from other sources.
"I'll do everything possible to overthrow this gorilla government of Honduras. It must be overthrown," the socialist leader said.
Some local television stations remained off the air and local media carried few reports of demonstrations in Zelaya's favor, apparently under government pressure. Ortez said freedom of expression was in full force but did not directly address the closure of stations or the temporary detention of journalists.
Zelaya said more than 150 people were injured in the demonstrations and 50 were arrested but said that he doesn't have hard figures, "because I'm not there." Officials in Honduras did not have updated figures on arrests or injuries.
The U.S. military, which has close ties to Honduran commanders, tried to avoid getting caught up in the dispute. It ordered most of its 800 personnel to remain inside the Soto Cano air base, 60 miles (100 kilometers) north of Tegucigalpa, allowing only "mission-essential" tasks, Southern Command spokesman Jose Ruiz said in Miami.
Honduras receives about $1 million a year from the United States to fight drug trafficking and Soto Cano is a key base in the fight against drugs. There's also a contingent of DEA agents in country. U.S. and Honduran officials estimate about 100 tons of Colombian cocaine pass through Honduras annually on their way to the United States.
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Associated Press writers Marcos Aleman and Freddy Cuevas in Tegucigalpa, Julie Watson in Mexico City, Frank Bajak in Bogota and Edie Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-06-25 20:45 GMT+08:00