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Page last updated at 07:18 GMT, Tuesday, 14 July 2009 08:18 UK

Ousted Zelaya issues 'ultimatum'

Ousted President Manuel Zelaya. File photo
Manuel Zelaya says he remains the democratically elected leader

Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya has issued an "ultimatum" to the interim government in Tegucigalpa.

Mr Zelaya said the interim government must step down and he should be reinstated as president after further mediation talks due later this week.

Mr Zelaya was ousted and forced out of Honduras at gunpoint on 28 June.

The crisis erupted after he tried to hold a non-binding public consultation to ask people whether they supported moves to change the constitution.

'Shoot me'

Mr Zelaya was speaking at a news conference in Nicaragua's capital, Managua.

He accused the interim government in Tegucigalpa of delaying tactics in the negotiations led by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, who had previously set deadlines for reaching an agreement.

I have enough moral reliability to take your blows and bullets
Manuel Zelaya
Ousted Honduran President

"We must give precise dates. President Arias asked for 48 hours the first time, then it was 72 hours, and now it has logically been extended to a week.

"And this week the time is up: it is the time limit for those behind the coup, for that repressive government - that dictatorship government backed by the military - to step down from power and to leave, in response to the full weight of international law.

"I'm publicly challenging the coup regime: let's agree to let me go back. I will go escorted by the people; you can go with your guns, and instead of shooting innocent children like the one you murdered at the Toncontin airport, shoot me. I have enough moral reliability to take your blows and bullets," Mr Zelaya said.

Mr Zelaya was speaking hours after the interim president, Roberto Micheletti, indicated that mediation talks could possibly resume on Saturday.

"We have been officially informed that we will possibly meet in Costa Rica again on Saturday," said Mr Micheletti as he attended the swearing-in ceremony of his de facto government's new foreign minister.

Mr Zelaya's opponents say his plan to hold the public consultation on the constitution could have led to the removal of the current one-term limit on presidents and so paved the way for his possible re-election.

Mr Zelaya's attempt to fly back to Honduras failed earlier this month when the authorities blocked the runway at Tegucigalpa airport.

At least one supporter of the ousted leader has been killed in clashes.



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