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Page last updated at 23:29 GMT, Monday, 21 September 2009 00:29 UK

Ousted leader returns to Honduras

Supporters of Manuel Zelaya outside the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa (21 September 2009)
Hundreds of Mr Zelaya's supporters rushed to the Brazilian embassy

Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya has returned to his country, nearly three months after being deposed.

Mr Zelaya has sought refuge inside the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa and hundreds of his supporters have gathered outside.

Mr Zelaya said he had crossed mountains and rivers to return to the capital, where he said he was seeking dialogue.

Honduran authorities, who have threatened to arrest Mr Zelaya, have imposed a curfew on the country.

In images broadcast on national television, a smiling Mr Zelaya wearing his trademark white cowboy hat appeared on the balcony of the Brazilian embassy waving to crowds of his supporters.

Witnesses said a military helicopter flew overhead.

Shortly afterwards officials imposed the 15-hour curfew, starting at 1600 (2200 GMT) on Monday.

[We travelled] for more than 15 hours... through rivers and mountains
Manuel Zelaya
Ousted Honduran President

The left-leaning president has been living in exile in Nicaragua since being ousted at gunpoint on 28 June.

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

The US has backed Mr Zelaya during his exile and criticised the de facto leaders for failing to restore "democratic, constitutional rule" and the Organization of American States (OAS) has demanded Mr Zelaya's reinstatement.

Dialogue

Speaking to the BBC from inside the Brazilian embassy, Mr Zelaya said he had received support from various quarters in order to return.

TIMELINE: ZELAYA OUSTED
28 June: Zelaya forced out of country at gunpoint
5 July: A dramatic bid by Zelaya to return home by plane fails after the runway at Tegucigalpa airport is blocked
25-26 July: Zelaya briefly crosses into the country at the land border with Nicaragua on two consecutive days, in a symbolic move to demand he be allowed to return
21 Sept: Zelaya appears in the Brazilian embassy in Tegulcigalpa

"[We travelled] for more than 15 hours... through rivers and mountains until we reached the capital of Honduras, which we reached in the early hours of the morning," he said.

"We overtook military and police obstacles, all those on the highways here, because this country has been kidnapped by the military forces."

He said he was consulting with sectors of Honduran society and the international community in order "to start the dialogue for the reconstruction of the Honduran democracy".

Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim confirmed that Mr Zelaya had been given refuge inside the embassy.

But he said neither his country nor the OAS had played any part in Mr Zelaya's return, Associated Press news agency reported.

Thousands of Zelaya supporters converged on the embassy, after gathering outside UN buildings where he was initially reported to be.

"The government has declared the curfew for the entire country from four in the afternoon until six in the morning to conserve calm in the country," a spokesman for the leadership, Rene Zepeda, told Reuters.

The interim government has repeatedly threatened to arrest Mr Zelaya should he return.

Call for calm

Mr Zelaya urged the armed forces not to use violence against demonstrators.

Supporters of ousted Honduras President Manuel Zelaya outside the UN buildings in Tegucigalpa (21 September 2009)
Supporters of Mr Zelaya initially gathered outside the UN building

OAS chief Jose Miguel Insulza also called for calm, telling Honduran authorities they were responsible for the security of Mr Zelaya and the Brazilian embassy.

As reports that Mr Zelaya had surfaced in Tegucigalpa began to come through, de facto leader Mr Micheletti appeared to be caught off-guard, insisting Mr Zelaya had not left neighbouring Nicaragua.

"It's not true. He is in a hotel suite in Nicaragua," Mr Micheletti told a news conference.

Mr Micheletti has vowed to step aside after presidential elections are held as scheduled on 29 November. But he has refused to allow Mr Zelaya to return to office in the interim.

Shortly after June's coup, Mr Zelaya attempted to fly back to Honduras, but failed when the authorities blocked the runway at Tegucigalpa airport.

In July, talks in Costa Rica on resolving the crisis hosted by the country's President Oscar Arias broke down without the parties reaching an agreement.

Later that month, Mr Zelaya briefly crossed into Honduras from Nicaragua - a symbolic move the US described as "reckless".



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