U.S. talks with deposed Honduran leader

/ Source: The Associated Press

U.S. diplomats are working to ensure the safety of deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya and his family as they press for restoration of constitutional law and his presidency.

President Barack Obama called Sunday for "all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter" as the Central American crisis unfolded.

For those conditions to be met, Zelaya must be returned to power, U.S. officials said.

Knowing trouble was brewing in Honduras over several weeks, the Obama administration warned power players there, including the armed forces, that the United States and other nations in the Americas would not support or abide a coup, officials said. They said Honduran military leaders stopped taking their calls.

Two senior administration officials briefed reporters by phone on condition of anonymity, under ground rules set by the State Department. One predicted a consensus will quickly fall into place across the Americas, via the Organization of American States, that the coup was an "illegal and illegitimate act that cannot stand."

The U.S. has been in touch with Zelaya since he was brought to Costa Rica by the forces that unseated him, and has been trying to communicate with members of the Honduran Congress to insist that the new power structure step down, the official said. As well, officials in Washington and in the Honduran capital have been seeking ways to make sure Zelaya's family is unharmed.

The U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa warned Americans in Honduras of the potential for conflict in the aftermath and of the need to take great caution in their movements.

Washington had no plans to withdraw its ambassador but made clear it does not recognize anyone other than Zelaya as the legitimate president. The leftist leader was spirited out of the country by an air force plane in the first military takeover of a Central American government in 16 years.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Zelaya's ouster "should be condemned by all.

"We call on all parties in Honduras to respect the constitutional order and the rule of law, to reaffirm their democratic vocation, and to commit themselves to resolve political disputes peacefully and through dialogue," she said.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a Zelaya ally, put his armed forces on alert and threatened to overthrow leaders of the Honduran coup. That was received in Washington as bluster. One of the administration officials who briefed the press said of Venezuela, "They have no intention of introducing troops."