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Page last updated at 16:23 GMT, Wednesday, 1 July 2009 17:23 UK

Deadline for Honduras over leader

President Manuel Zelaya holds a copy of the OAS resolution
Manuel Zelaya insists he was not seeking to extend his term

The current leaders of Honduras have been given three days to restore exiled President Manuel Zelaya to power, by the Organization of American States.

If Honduras fails to comply, it could face being suspended from the OAS.

The army ousted Mr Zelaya on Sunday over his plans for constitutional reform, which his critics said were aimed at prolonging his presidency.

Mr Zelaya has delayed a return planned for Thursday in light of the OAS move, averting a potential showdown.

Roberto Micheletti, the Speaker of Congress who was sworn in as interim president, said Mr Zelaya would face arrest on charges of violating the constitution.

There has been international condemnation of the coup. On Wednesday, a Pentagon spokesman said the US was suspending joint military operations with Honduras while they assessed the situation.

We thought we were in an era when military coups were no longer possible in this hemisphere
Jose Miguel Insulza

The World Bank announced it was suspending loans to Honduras, valued at some $400m (£242m).

The head of the OAS, Jose Miguel Insulza, condemned what he described as "an old-fashioned coup" in Honduras, after an emergency meeting of the regional grouping on Tuesday.

"We need to show clearly that military coups will not be accepted," he said.

If Mr Zelaya was not reinstated within 72 hours, the OAS would meet to suspend Honduras, Mr Insulza said.

Mr Zelaya, who previously said he would return home on Thursday, has said he will delay his trip. He has now travelled to Panama to attend the inauguration of the new president, Ricardo Martinelli.

People demonstrate in Tegucigalpa against President Zelaya's return
There have been vocal demonstrations against Mr Zelaya's return

Mr Zelaya, 57, was ousted amid stiff opposition to his proposals to amend the constitution from the courts, military, Congress and even some members of his own party.

He had wanted to hold a non-binding referendum on constitutional change.

Mr Zelaya's critics say this could have paved the way for his re-election.

The Supreme Court and Congress deemed the ballot illegal, saying one of several clauses that cannot be legally altered in the Honduran constitution limits presidents to a single, four-year term.

The vote had been set for Sunday, but instead troops stormed the presidential palace at dawn, bundled the president to an airbase and flew him to Costa Rica.

Speaking at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Mr Zelaya said he was not aiming to stay in office but was determined to complete his term, which ends in January 2010.

"I am not going to convene a constitutional assembly, and if I was offered the possibility of remaining in power, I would not do it. I am going to fulfil my four years, I'm going to fight to have the four years respected," he said.

Falling popularity

The UN passed a resolution on Tuesday calling "firmly and categorically on all states to recognise no government other than that" of Mr Zelaya.

Supporters of President Zelaya demonstrate near the presidential palace on 30 June
Mr Zelaya's supporters have also been demonstrating

The president's expulsion has been widely condemned by leaders ranging from US President Barack Obama to Mr Zelaya's regional allies, including Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

But thousands of people demonstrated in the capital, Tegucigalpa, against the return of the ousted leader, whose popularity has slumped in opinion polls to around 30% in recent months.

The BBC's Stephen Gibbs in Tegucigalpa says they seemed very determined to prevent him being reinstated and appear to outnumber his supporters, at least in the capital.



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