Page last updated at 08:46 GMT, Tuesday, 30 June 2009 09:46 UK

Ousted Honduran head 'to return'


Clashes in the streets of Tegucigalpa

The ousted president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, has said he will return home later this week, after being forced into exile on Sunday.

Addressing a meeting of leaders from the Organization of American States (OAS) in Nicaragua, Mr Zelaya invited other leaders to accompany him.

Earlier, US President Barack Obama described his removal as a "coup".

Mr Zelaya was removed by the army in a power struggle over plans for constitutional change.

Mr Zelaya announced his return in the capital of Nicaragua, Managua, where he has been attending a meeting with his leftist allies in the region, including Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.

Population: 7.2 million
One of poorest countries in Latin America
GNI per capita: US$1,600
Main exports: Coffee, bananas

Mr Zelaya said he would fly home on Thursday, together with the head of the OAS.

"I'll be finishing my term of four years whatever you - you groups of oligarchs, you the owners of the media - may want," he said.

It is unclear how Honduras's current leaders would react but they have previously said that Mr Zelaya would be arrested and jailed if he set foot in the country.

They say he was legally removed because he violated the constitution.

Mr Obama said he would work with the OAS to restore Mr Zelaya to office.

The US president said a "terrible precedent" would be set if the coup was not reversed.

A number of countries in the region have withdrawn their ambassadors from Honduras, and the OAS is to hold an emergency meeting on Tuesday to discuss expelling Honduras from the grouping.

Honduran President Manuel Zelaya in Costa Rica on Sunday 28 June 2009
Mr Zelaya is regarded by neighbouring states as the president of Honduras

Honduran trade unions have called for a general strike to protest at Mr Zelaya's removal.

On Monday, police and soldiers clashed with protesters in the capital.

Television footage showed supporters of Mr Zelaya throwing rocks and police responding with tear gas.

The ousted president, who was elected in 2006, had wanted to hold a non-binding referendum to ask Hondurans whether they would support efforts to change the constitution.

This could have paved the way for Mr Zelaya, currently restricted to one term, to run for re-election, his critics argue.

Polls for the vote were due to open on Sunday, but instead troops stormed the presidential palace at dawn, detained Mr Zelaya and flew him to Costa Rica.

The military, Congress and the Supreme Court in the Central American nation had all opposed Mr Zelaya's referendum.

As Speaker of Congress, Roberto Micheletti, has been sworn-in to replace Mr Zelaya and he says he will serve out the last seven months of his term.

"We respect everybody and we ask only that they respect us and leave us in peace because the country is headed toward free and transparent general elections in November," he told Honduran radio.

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