By Sophie Nicholson (AFP) – Jul 1, 2009
TEGUCIGALPA (AFP) — Ousted President Manuel Zelaya on Wednesday postponed his return to Honduras to coincide with the end of a regional ultimatum to restore him to power, as the nation's interim leader sought to drum up support.
Foreign pressure mounted on the increasingly isolated nation as the Organization of American States threatened Honduras with suspension from the regional body if it did not return Zelaya to power.
Roberto Micheletti, who took over hours after Zelaya was bundled away to Costa Rica on Sunday, meanwhile denied that foreign funding had been cut and vowed to present the case against Zelaya to the international community.
"We'll manage to explain to them what's really happening here. There was no coup. It was a constitutional succession," Micheletti told foreign journalists in a half-empty presidential palace, blaming Zelaya for breaking the law by trying to hold a referendum on a vote to change the constitution on Sunday.
As rows of soldiers blocked the road outside in the blazing sun, thousands took to the streets across the capital, with an apparently stronger showing of pro-Zelaya supporters than the previous day.
Italy was the latest European country to recall its ambassador to Honduras, following France and Spain, while the 27 nations of the European Union agreed to have no contact with the leadership of Sunday's coup.
The World Bank said it was halting all loans and grants to the Central American nation, valued at some 400 million dollars "until there is a resolution of the present crisis."
But Micheletti insisted the country was still receiving aid.
"They haven't cut loans. The United States and the European Union have said they will continue with aid for our country," Micheletti said.
The interim government was trying to lobby officials in the United States and Europe, he said.
"We want to present the truth to these organisms about what happened in our country," he said, referring once again to Zelaya's alleged corruption, abuse of authority and illegal acts against the courts.
Micheletti also slammed Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the firebrand leader of the region's leftists and a key Zelaya ally.
"The intervention of the government of Hugo Chavez is clear and definite in the situation in Honduras," Micheletti said.
Asked about the possibility of a coalition government with Zelaya, Micheletti said that decision was in the hands of the country's courts.
After winning the backing of the UN General Assembly for his bid to return to power on Tuesday, Zelaya won support from the OAS with the ultimatum.
"We will wait 72 hours in order to continue with this process" in light of the OAS ultimatum, Zelaya told reporters in Panama City, one day before he had been due to return home.
A day after Zelaya's visit to Washington, the Pentagon suspended all military activities with Tegucigalpa until further notice.
Zelaya met senior US officials late Tuesday, but not with US President Barack Obama -- who has said he still regards him as the legitimate Honduran president.
Zelaya will "immediately" be arrested if he returned to Honduras as planned, the attorney general has said.
Zelaya vowed to return home in Panama on Wednesday.
Elected in 2005 to a non-renewable four-year term, Zelaya clashed with the country's courts, military and politicians in the run up to his planned vote on Sunday's vote on a referendum to change the constitution, which was expected to allow him a stab at a second term.
The coup was the first in the banana and coffee exporting country and close US military ally in more than 20 years.
The new authorities have extended a 9:00 pm to 5:00 am curfew until Friday, after dozens of people were injured in clashes between the military and pro-Zelaya supporters on Monday.
Unidentified attackers threw a grenade, which failed to explode, at the Supreme Court late Tuesday.
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