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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 September 2006, 00:43 GMT 01:43 UK
Washington criticises Thai coup
Thai soldiers on guard near Bangkok's Democracy monument
Thai soldiers swiftly took control of Bangkok on Tuesday night
The United States has condemned Tuesday's coup in Thailand and called for the restoration of democracy in its close ally as quickly as possible.

Expressing "disappointment", the White House urged the coup leaders to keep their promise to hold elections.

But there was no demand for deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to be returned to power.

The head of the coup, Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin, has said he will appoint a new prime minister within two weeks.

He has also promised the interim government will draft a new constitution with the aim of restoring democracy within a year.

BBC state department correspondent Jonathan Beale says Washington appears to be trying to avoid taking sides but US aid is likely to be suspended.

The Thai army said it intervened to end the protracted political crisis sparked off by allegations of abuse of power against Mr Thaksin.

According to Thai state TV, Thailand's revered head of state, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, has given his backing to Gen Sonthi.

Mr Thaksin, who was at the United Nations when the coup took place, has now arrived in Britain, where it is not known how long he intends to stay.

'Step backward'

White House press secretary Tony Snow said the US was "disappointed" and talks on a US free trade agreement with Thailand depended on a swift return to democracy.

The people of Bangkok largely seem to have welcomed the coup

A US state department spokesman, Tom Casey, said there was "no justification" for the coup.

"It is a step backward for democracy," he added.

The coup leader is said to be close to the king although he says the monarch had nothing to do with the actual coup.

The television statement attributed to the king urged all Thais to "remain peaceful" and called for civil servants to listen to orders from Gen Sonthi.

The BBC's Jonathan Head in Bangkok says securing the endorsement of the 78-year-old monarch is crucial to the success of the military intervention.

Months of tension

The coup followed months of growing tension in Thailand, with protests against Mr Thaksin and a general election which was annulled due to concerns about its legitimacy.

If Thailand remains under military control, it may lose friends around the world
Abdelilah Boukili, Marrakesh, Morocco

Gen Sonthi says he was acting in line with the wishes of the Thai people, blaming government mismanagement for forcing coup leaders to act.

Many in Bangkok, where Mr Thaksin is unpopular, welcomed the news and coup supporters brought flowers and food to soldiers cordoning off the government district.

Mr Thaksin arrived in London with little fanfare, on what the UK Foreign Office said was a private visit.

It is the first coup in 15 years in a country where they used to be commonplace with 17 between 1932 and 1991.

Tanks remain on the streets of Bangkok

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