- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 1, 2009

UNITED NATIONS | Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya vowed to return home Thursday despite a warning from the coup leader that he would be arrested upon arrival.

Several regional leaders plan to accompany him on the trip.

“I travel to Honduras on Thursday,” Mr. Zelaya told reporters here Tuesday. “My people will be there, as the military will be there, my enemies will be there.”

He added: “I am going to return Thursday because they expelled me by force.”

Mr. Zelaya flew to Washington on Tuesday afternoon at the request of the Organization of American States (OAS).

A State Department spokeswoman said Thomas Shannon, assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs, likely would meet Mr. Zelaya on Tuesday but that the meeting would not take place at the State Department.

Three days after the army arrested Mr. Zelaya, the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, continued to be swamped with demonstrations by thousands of people shouting their support for Mr. Zelaya or demanding his arrest. Three major unions walked off their jobs Tuesday to endorse Mr. Zelaya.

The newly sworn-in provisional president, Roberto Micheletti, said the military intervention was justified because Mr. Zelaya had violated the Honduran constitution by trying to amend it to allow for a second presidential term. He said Mr. Zelaya will be arrested if he returns.

Mr. Micheletti, the former president of the Honduran Congress, was sworn in as provisional president Sunday evening.

The coup presents some difficulties for the Obama administration: Washington sends millions of dollars to Honduras every year, mostly for humanitarian and military aid. But the payments depend on Honduras remaining a democratic state. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton indicated early Tuesday that the money may not be forthcoming if Mr. Zelaya is not reinstated.

Several European and Central American countries have recalled their ambassadors to Honduras in a gesture of support for the ousted president.

A number of Central American leaders have agreed to accompany him back to Honduras on Thursday, in a show of solidarity: OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, and U.N. General Assembly President Miguel D’escoto Brockmann of Nicaragua.

Mr. Zelaya was in New York on Tuesday morning for a long-confirmed meeting on the international financial crisis. The well-to-do former cattle rancher used most of his 20 minutes at the podium to describe for the world body the ordeal of his arrest.

“I live in a small house. I was fast asleep in a middle-class area of Tegucigalpa,” he said. “I was awakened by shouts, and pounding against the [front] door. The army entered and I was arrested in my night clothes at 5 a.m. These are moments I don’t wish to remember, it breaks my heart … humanity sliding backwards.”

Mr. Zelaya said the army snatched him and tossed him on a plane that delivered him to Costa Rica. There, he said, he - still in his pajamas - was met by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias.

His lengthy remarks were twice interrupted by spontaneous applause. The U.N. General Assembly also passed a largely symbolic resolution calling for the former president’s reinstatement.

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