- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 3, 2009

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton terminated a large part of U.S. assistance to Honduras Thursday over the ouster of President Manuel Zelaya and said that Washington would not recognize the results of elections scheduled for November.

The State Department announced Mrs. Clinton’s long-expected decision as she met with Mr. Zelaya in Washington. She had temporarily suspended aid shortly after the June 28 coup, but Thursday’s move makes the cut permanent.

“The secretary of state has made the decision consistent with U.S. legislation, recognizing the need for strong measures in light of the continued resistance to the adoption of the San Jose Accord by the de facto regime and continuing failure to restore democratic, constitutional rule to Honduras,” said department spokesman Ian C. Kelly.

The San Jose Accord is a deal brokered by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, providing for Mr. Zelaya’s return until the Nov. 29 elections. However, Roberto Micheletti, the de facto Honduran president, has refused to accept it.

Mr. Kelly did not specify the exact amount to be terminated, but officials have said in the past that about $200 million was at stake. The department is expected to provide more details later Thursday.

“Restoration of the terminated assistance will be predicated upon a return to democratic, constitutional governance in Honduras,” Mr. Kelly said, calling for a “free, fair and transparent” vote.

“At this moment, we would not be able to support the outcome of the scheduled elections,” he said. “A positive conclusion of the Arias process would provide a sound basis for legitimate elections to proceed. We strongly urge all parties to the San Jose talks to move expeditiously to agreement.”

The State Department is also in the process of revoking the U.S. visas of “individual members and supporters of the de facto regime,” Mr. Kelly said. The U.S. Embassy in Honduras has suspended most visa operations.

Mr. Zelaya was taken out of his bed in his pajamas and forcefully flown out of Honduras.

“The Department of State recognizes the complicated nature of the actions which led to June 28 coup d’etat in which Honduras’ democratically elected leader, President Zelaya, was removed from office,” Mr. Kelly said. “These events involve complex factual and legal questions and the participation of both the legislative and judicial branches of government as well as the military.”

Mrs. Clinton had come under intense pressure to cut aid, including from key Democratic members of Congress.

“We should wield our influence by withdrawing all but the most necessary assistance, an action that would be in keeping with those of 34 countries in the Western Hemisphere that want to see democracy restored to Honduras,” Rep. Howard L. Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote in an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times Thursday.

• Nicholas Kralev can be reached at nkralev@washingtontimes.com.

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