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Page last updated at 09:22 GMT, Wednesday, 29 July 2009 10:22 UK

Honduras officials lose US visas

Manuel Zelaya talks to supporters in Nicaragua on 25 July
Manuel Zelaya has set up a base just over the border in Nicaragua

The US has revoked the visas of four members of the interim Honduran government as it presses for the return of ousted president Manuel Zelaya.

A state department spokesman said they were also reviewing the visas of other members of the de facto government.

"We don't recognise Roberto Micheletti as president of Honduras. We recognise Manuel Zelaya," the spokesman said.

Mr Zelaya, who was exiled last month amid a row over proposed constitutional change, is in neighbouring Nicaragua.

The officials concerned had received their visas in connection with positions they held prior to the 28 June ousting of Mr Zelaya but now "served the de facto government", state department spokesman Ian Kelly said.

He said the decision to revoke the visas was in line with US policy of non-recognition of Mr Micheletti's government.

Roberto Micheletti
Roberto Micheletti's government insists Mr Zelaya cannot return as president

Mr Kelly added that the US was doing everything it could to support the process undertaken by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias to try to facilitate Mr Zelaya's return.

President Zelaya, who has expressed concern that international efforts to restore him were weakening, welcomed the US decision.

"This is a coup that has been dead from the start, so they will have to abandon their position of intransigence in the coming hours," said Mr Zelaya, who is currently based in Nicaragua near the Honduran border.

The interim government, meanwhile, said US policy towards Honduras was "difficult to read".

Deputy Foreign Minister Martha Lorena Alvarado told the BBC that the US move was "not good news" but denied that it would have a significant effect on their ability to operate.

The US, while firmly supporting Mr Zelaya's right to return to power, has not imposed trade sanctions on Honduras and retains an ambassador in Tegucigalpa, notes the BBC's Stephen Gibbs in Mexico City.

Mr Zelaya was ousted after he pursued efforts to hold a non-binding public consultation to ask people whether they supported efforts to change the constitution.

Critics interpreted that as an attempt to remove the current one-term limit on serving as president.

The Supreme Court declared his attempt to hold a vote illegal under Honduras's constitution, and the military was sent to bundle him out of the country on 28 June.



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