Image: Manuel Zelaya
Alex Brandon  /  AP
Ousted Honduras president Manuel Zelaya, shown here after a meeting of the Organization of American States in Washington on Wednesday, vows to return to his country.
updated 7/1/2009 8:59:36 PM ET 2009-07-02T00:59:36

The Obama administration said Wednesday it has suspended joint military operations with Honduras to protest a coup that forced President Manuel Zelaya into exile. The U.S. withheld stronger action in hopes of negotiating a peaceful return of the country's elected leader.

The Organization of American States, meeting in Washington, gave Honduran coup leaders three days to restore Zelaya to power — under threat of suspending Honduras's OAS membership. Afterward, several officials said the administration is still reviewing the possibility of cutting off U.S. aid.

Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said, "We continue to monitor the situation and will respond accordingly as events transpire."

At the State Department, spokesman Ian C. Kelly said the department's top diplomat for the Americas, Thomas Shannon, met with Zelaya at OAS headquarters on Tuesday evening. Kelly would not reveal details, except to say Zelaya thanked the administration for supporting his unconditional return to power.

Kelly said he was not aware of any plan to recall the U.S. ambassador from the Honduran capital. Another official, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal deliberations, said the administration believes it stands a better chance of achieving a peaceful outcome if it keeps a diplomat in Tegucigalpa.

The official also said the U.S. was not advocating that the matter be taken up by the U.N. Security Council.

Legal advisers assess facts
Kelly said the administration was still studying whether the forced removal of Zelaya was a military coup in a legal sense that would trigger a cutoff or suspension of American financial assistance.

"Our legal advisers are actively assessing the facts and the law in question, which we take very seriously," Kelly said.

The administration appeared to be counting on the threat of Honduras having its OAS membership suspended as leverage in getting Zelaya back in power. While the administration joined the OAS in calling for Zelaya's unconditional return, with no limits on his presidential powers, it also seemed open to some form of compromise.

Video: Protesters rally in Honduras U.S. officials said they were pleased that Zelaya, who had vowed to return to Honduras on Thursday, put that off after the OAS announced the three-day deadline for the country's interim leaders to accept him back. Zelaya was in Panama on Wednesday to attend that country's presidential inauguration.

Zelaya said he would put off his return until the weekend.

The decision to suspend U.S. military activities in Honduras was announced by Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman, who said, "We've postponed any activities in Honduras right now as we assess that situation."

Whitman would not be specific, but the suspension could have broad implications because the United States runs a large Central American security and counternarcotics operation from a jointly run air base in Honduras. Whitman said only operations affecting Honduras itself are on hold.

OAS sharply condemns coup
Earlier, OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza delivered what he called "an ultimatum" for Zelaya's safe return.

In a sharply worded resolution, the OAS said it vehemently condemned the coup and "the arbitrary detention and expulsion" of Zelaya.

The coup, the OAS resolution said, has produced an "unconstitutional alteration of the democratic order."

Calling Zelaya's overthrow an "old-fashioned coup," Insulza said: "We need to show clearly that military coups will not be accepted. We thought we were in an era when military coups were no longer possible in this hemisphere."

Zelaya has said he intends to return home accompanied by Insulza, the presidents of Argentina and Ecuador and the head of the U.N. General Assembly to seek restoration of his authority.

Roberto Micheletti, named by Honduras' Congress as the new president, said Tuesday that Zelaya could be met with an arrest warrant if he returned.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Coup in Honduras

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  1. The de facto leader of Honduras, Roberto Micheletti, seen here, Oct. 29, agreed to a deal that is likely to reinstate ousted President Manuel Zelaya. (Yuri Cortez / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Honduran soldiers arrive to the square where a military perimeter has been installed around the Brasilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa on Thursday, Sept. 24. Honduras' interim government on Thursday lifted a nationwide curfew but maintained a siege of the embassy where deposed President Zelaya has taken refuge. (Yuri Cortez / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Supporters of Honduras' interim President Roberto Micheletti shout during a demonstration in front of the local United Nations office in Tegucigalpa Sept. 24. (Henry Romero / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Hordes of people fill the aisles of a supermarket to buy food during a break in the curfew imposed by the Honduran goverment in Tegucigalpa on Wednesday, Sept. 23. Hondurans scrambled through looted stores and lined up for food on during the break in a long curfew called to halt violence that erupted with the return of the country's deposed president. (Ulises Rodríguez / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Residents buy supplies at a supermarket during a break in a curfew imposed by the interim government in Tegucigalpa on Wednesday. (Rodrigo Abd / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. A boy walks past burning garbage and a shopping cart from a looted supermarket used as part of a roadblock after riots in El Pedregal in Tegucigalpa on Wednesday. (Oswaldo Rivas / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, center, meets with supporters, at the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa, on Wednesday. Honduras' de facto leader Roberto Micheletti has offered for the first time to hold direct talks with Zelaya to resolve a political stand-off even as soldiers surrounded the embassy where he took refuge. (Orlando Sierra / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Members of the Honduran army are lined up in the surroundings of the Brazilian embassy in an effort to drive away supporters of deposed Honduran president in Tegucigalpa on Tuesday. (Yuri Cortez / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. A supporter of Honduras's ousted President Manuel Zelaya sits on a rock in a road block during a protest in Tegucigalpa, Tuesday. (Rodrigo Abd / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Soldiers take cover during clashes with supporters of deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya at El Pedregal neigborhood in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Tuesday, Honduran soldiers surrounded the Brazilian embassy where Zelaya is holed up seeking reinstatement, driving off protesters who had massed there overnight. (Yuri Cortez / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Supporters of Honduran ousted President, Manuel Zelaya, clash with police during a riot at the El Pedregal neighborhood in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. (Gustavo Amador / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Supporters of Honduras's ousted President Manuel Zelaya chant slogans against the interim government during a protest in Tegucigalpa, Tuesday. (Rodrigo Abd / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Police uses water canons against supporters of Honduras' ousted President Manuel Zelaya during clashes near the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa, Tuesday. (Fernando Antonio / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya greets supporters at the Brazilian Embassy in capital Tegucigalpa on Sept. 21. Zelaya made a surprise return to the country almost three months after soldiers expelled him in a coup. (Orlando Sierra / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. A Zelaya supporter shouts slogans against interim President Roberto Micheletti in front of a row of riot police during a demonstration in Honduras' capital Tegucigalpa on Sept. 18. (Esteban Felix / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A Zelaya supporter hits Ramon Velasquez, vice-president of Honduras' Congress, during a protest in Tegucigalpa on Aug. 12. (Edgard Garrido / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Honduras' interim leader Micheletti talks to journalists outside the presidential palace in Tegucigalpa on Sept. 21. (Arnulfo Franco / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. University students throw rocks at riot police at a roadblock at the National University in Tegucigalpa on Aug. 5. (Arnulfo Franco / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Police fire tear gas during a protest by university students supporting ousted President Manuel Zelaya at the National University in Tegucigalpa on Sept. 16. (Edgard Garrido / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
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    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

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    A man participating in a rally supporting Zelaya lies on the ground after being shot in the head in Tegucigalpa on July 30. (Arnulfo Franco / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Zelaya supporters protest in Tegucigalpa on June 28. (Orlando Sierra / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Ousted President Manuel Zelaya, center, talks to supporters in Ocotal, near the Honduran-Nicaraguan border, on July 27. (Mario Lopez / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. A boy cleans Honduran soldiers' shoes in Las Manos on the Honduras-Nicaragua border on July 27. (Gustavo Amador / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, wife of the ousted president, reads Honduras' constitution to riot police blocking the crossing of Jacaliapa, west of the Nicaraguan border with Honduras, on July 27. Zelaya had set-up his roving government-in-exile in Nicaragua to launch a return to power after a coup in June. (Ulises Rodriguez / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Riot police stand guard as Zelaya supporters block a road in Tegucigalpa on July 27. (Arnulfo Franco / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Zelaya supporters push two plain-clothes police officers, right and second-from-left, during a funeral in Tegucigalpa on July 26. The ousted president's supporters identified and beat three plain-clothes policemen at the funeral of Pedro Magdiel Munoz before other Zelaya supporters intervened and guided the officials to safety. Enraged demonstrators then overturned and set on fire the patrol vehicle the policemen arrived in. (Tomas Bravo / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Zelaya supporters try to overturn a car driven by a man whom they believe is an undercover police officer in El Durazno, Honduras, on July 26. (Arnulfo Franco / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. A Zelaya supporter stands next to a poster of interim leader Micheletti that reads "putschist" in El Paraiso on July 25. (Edgard Garrido / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Zelaya, top right, talks to supporters in Las Manos, Nicaragua, on July 25. (Eduardo Verdugo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Villagers stand outside their house as riot police and soldiers stand guard at a roadblock preventing Zelaya supporters from approaching the border near El Arenal, Honduras, on July 25. (Rodrigo Abd / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Ousted president Zelaya, right, lifts the chain that divides the border post of Las Manos, Nicaragua, with Honduras on July 24. Zelaya briefly stepped across the border in a symbolic move almost a month after soldiers sent him into exile. (Mayerling Garcia / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Zelaya supporters march to the border with Nicaragua before the ousted president's arrival on July 24. (Daniel Leclair / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Zelaya, left, is welcomed by the President of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias in San Jose, Costa Rica, where talks between the ousted president and the Interim Honduran President Roberto Micheletti were set to take place on July 9. President Arias tried to mediate the negotians, which were meant to end the political crisis that began after the coup that ousted Zelaya on June 28. (Jeffrey Arguedas / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Honduras' interim President Roberto Micheletti, left, waves as he walks with Costa Rica's Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno, second right, upon his arrival at Juan Santamaria Airport near San Jose, Costa Rica, on July 9. (Kent Gilbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. A vehicle set on fire by Zelaya supporter burns during a blockade on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa on July 8. (Oswaldo Rivas / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, wife of Honduras' ousted president, center, greets supporters during a march in Tegucigalpa on July 7. (Esteban Felix / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. Catholics take part in a candlelight vigil in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on July 7 to protest the coup that ousted Zelaya. (Daniel Leclair / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. Rebeca Murillo grieves over the coffin of her brother, Isy Murillo, 19, in Tegucigalpa on July 6. Isy Murillo was shot to death on July 5 by troops protecting Honduras' main airport during clashes with Zelaya supporters. (Rodrigo Abd / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. Zelaya supporters clash with soldiers near Tegucigalpa's airport during a protest against the coup that ousted Honduras' president in June. (Elmer Martinez / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. A Zelaya supporter lies dead after being shot by soldiers outside Tegucigalpa's airport on July 5. (Jose Cabezas / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. Zelaya supporters cheer as the deposed president's airplane flies over Tegucigalpa's airport on July 5. (Eduardo Verdugo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. Police and soldiers block the airstrip at Tegucigalpa's airport to prevent a plane carrying ousted president Zelaya from landing on July 5. (Tomas Bravo / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  43. Thousands of Zelaya supporters wait for the ousted president's in front of Tegucigalpa's airport on July 5. (Eduardo Verdugo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  44. Zelaya talks with reporters outside of the Ecuadorean embassy in Washington, D.C., on July 5, after he announced plans to return to Honduras. Argentine President Cristina Ferdandez is at his left. (Jose Luis Magana / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  45. Interim Honduran President Roberto Micheletti addresses supporters during a meeting at the Presidential House in Tegucigalpa on July 3. (Oswaldo Rivas / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  46. A man is detained by soldiers and police officers during a protest by Zelaya supporters in San Pedro Sula on July 2. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  47. Honduran police and soldiers prepare to charge Zelaya supporters who are being attacked with water-cannon and tear gas during a demonstration in San Pedro Sula on July 2. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  48. Zelaya supporters errect a barricade near the presidential residence in Tegucigalpa on July 1. (Roberto Escobar / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  49. Zelaya supporters demand his return to Honduras during a protest by taxi drivers in Tegucigalpa on July 1. (Orlando Sierra / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  50. Zelaya supporters use an umbrella to catch donated funds during a protest near the presidential residence in Tegucigalpa on July 1 (Esteban Felix / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  51. Zelaya, center, accepts a standing ovation during a meeting of the Organization of American States in Washington. The OAS, the United Nations, the Obama administration and other leaders have condemned the military coup that deposed Zelaya. (Alex Brandon / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  52. A soldier passes graffiti reading "Micheletti: You are not my president. The people," near the presidential palace in Tegucigalpa. (Orlando Sierra / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  53. Zelaya addresses the U.N. General Assembly in New York on June 30. (Yanina Manolova / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  54. De facto leader of Honduras Roberto Micheletti, right, raises the hand of Gen. Romeo Vasquez, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on June 30. Zelaya had fired the general on June 25, but Micheletti reappointed him during a rally in Tegucigalpa. (Str / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  55. Supporters of interim president Micheletti shout and hold national flags during a rally in Tegucigalpa on June 30. (Oswaldo Rivas / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  56. Hundreds of people gather at Morazan Square in central Tegucigalpa to protest against ousted president Zelaya. (Orlando Sierra / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  57. De facto leader Micheletti greets supporters in Tegucigalpa on June 30. (Str / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  58. A demonstrator throws a Molotov cocktail during clashes between supporters of the ousted president and armed forces in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on June 29. (Jose Cabezas / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  59. Police take cover during clashes with of supporters of ousted the president in Tegucigalpa on June 29. (EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  60. Honduran riot police beat protesters during clashes on June 29. (Jose Cabezas / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  61. A wounded woman is taken away after violence between supporters of the ousted president and the police on June 29. (Eduardo Verdugo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  62. Zelaya supporters throw rocks at police in Tegucigalpa on June 29. (Eduardo Verdugo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  63. A policeman leads away an injured colleague during a protest by Zelaya supporters in Tegucigalpa on June 29. (Oswaldo Rivas / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  64. Riot police disperse Zelaya supporters near the presidential residence in Tegucigalpa on June 29. (Esteban Felix / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  65. From left, Bolivian President Evo Morales, deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa pose for a photo after the final declaration of the Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas group, or ALBA, in Managua, on June 29. ALBA members condemned the coup in Honduras that deposed President Zelaya the day before and ordered the removal of all their ambassadors in Honduras. (Arnulfo Franco / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  66. Soldiers break into the presidential residency in Tegucigalpa on June 28. Soldiers arrested Zelaya and disarmed his security guards after surrounding his residence before dawn, about an hour before polls were to open for the non-binding referendum. Zelaya's referendum defied the courts and Congress, and his opponents said it was an attempt to remain in power after his term ends Jan. 27. (Esteban Felix / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  67. Zelaya supporters take cover during a shooting in the area around the presidential palace in Tegucigalpa on June 28. The Honduran Congress named speaker Roberto Micheletti as the country's new interim president following Zelaya's expulsion. (Yuri Cortez / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  68. Honduran soldiers stand guard behind a fence at the presidential palace following a coup outston Manuel Zelaya on June 28. (Jose Cabezas / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  69. Civilians berate soldiers near the presidential residence in Tegucigalpa on June 28. (Orlando Sierra / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  70. Manuel Zelaya gives a press conference at the Juan Santamaria International airport in San Jose, Costa Rica, on June 28. Zelaya said soldiers rousted him out of bed, beat his body guards and arrested him in his pajamas in what he described as "a coup" and "a kidnapping." (Kent Gilbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  71. Honduran President of National Congress Roberto Micheletti, center, takes the oath of office before assuming the position of acting president in Tegucigalpa on June 28. (Edgard Garrido / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  72. Zelaya supporters sing the national anthem outside the presidential residence in Tegucigalpa on June 29. (Ooswaldo Rivas / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  73. Soldiers and police officers gather at the Libertad square in front of the presidential residence in Tegucigalpa on June 29. (Esteban Felix / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  74. Zelaya is welcomed by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez after his arrival in Nicaragua on June 29. (Miraflores Palace via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  75. A demonstrator, draped in an Honduran flag, stands next to a bonfire near the presidential house in Tegucigalpa on June 29. (Esteban Felix / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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