- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 23, 2009

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — Honduras’ interim government extended an already long curfew through most of Wednesday after police skirmished with backers of ousted President Manuel Zelaya throughout the night and arrested more than 100 people for vandalism and looting.

Zelaya remained holed up with a shrinking core of supporters at the increasingly isolated Brazilian Embassy in Honduras. Diplomats and activists streamed out of the compound late Tuesday, and Brazil urged the U.N. Security Council to guarantee the embassy’s safety.

The country remains shut down under the nearly round-the-clock curfew decreed by the interim government that ousted Zelaya in June. Airports and the border crossings also were closed for a third day, after a night of violence.

Zelaya said six of his supporters died in confrontations with police. Authorities denied that and said one person suffered a gunshot wound. Officials did not give further details.

Police arrested 113 people on various charges.

Zelaya’s backers ventured out at several points in Honduras’ capital to skirmish with police, after hundreds of their colleagues were routed by baton-wielding soldiers from the street in front of the embassy and police roadblocks sealed off the mission building Tuesday.

Police said vandals seized on the opportunity to loot stores and vandalize businesses.

“These are reputable and delinquent acts, by people who live in these sectors of the capital who have intentionally ignored the state of emergency in which we are living,” said Orlin Cerrato, spokesman for the federal police.

The government initially ordered everyone indoors the entire day and later allowed people to go out on the streets for six hours.

Residents in the capital picked through items tossed on the floor at looted supermarkets. Streets remained blocked with burning trash bins placed there in the night by protesters.

The interim government accused Zelaya of sneaking back into the country Monday to create disturbances and disrupt the Nov. 29 election scheduled to pick his successor.

Foreign Minister Carlos Lopez said the government would not try to enter the embassy to arrest Zelaya, but he also said Honduras’ interim leaders had no intention of yielding on the central point demanded by the international community: the reinstatement of Zelaya to serve out the remaining four months of his term.

The government briefly set up loudspeakers near the embassy and shut off water and power to the building, apparently to harass Zelaya’s supporters inside. At least 85 Zelaya supporters and part of the embassy’s staff later left the building; none were detained. Services were later restored to the building.

At the United Nations, Brazilian Ambassador Maria Luiza Viotti voiced concerns about the safety of the embassy and of Zelaya in asking the Security Council to hold an emergency meeting on Honduras.

Zelaya, forced out of his country at gunpoint June 28, triumphantly popped up in the capital Monday, telling captivated supporters that after three months of international exile and a secretive 15-hour cross-country journey, he was ready to lead again.

He said Tuesday that he had no plans to leave the embassy and he repeatedly asked to speak with interim President Roberto Micheletti.

Micheletti offered to talk to Zelaya with the participation of the Organization of American States.

“I am ready to discuss how to resolve the crisis, but only inside the parameters of the Constitution,” Micheletti said in a nationally broadcast message read by Lopez.

Lopez said the offer did not include allowing Zelaya to serve out his presidential term or avoid arrest on a Supreme Court warrant charging the ex-leader with treason and abuse of authority.

Zelaya called Micheletti’s offer an attempt to drag out the process until the elections, saying, “He does not have the will to resolve what is happening in Honduras.”

Diplomats around the world, from the European Union to the U.S. State Department, urged calm while repeating their recognition of Zelaya as Honduras’ legitimate president.

Zelaya was removed after he repeatedly ignored court orders to drop plans for a referendum calling for a popular assembly to reform the constitution. His opponents accused him of wanting to end the constitutional ban on re-election — a charge Zelaya has repeatedly denied.

The Supreme Court ordered his arrest, and the Honduran Congress, alarmed by his increasingly close alliance with leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Cuba, backed the army as it forced him into exile in Costa Rica.

Since his ouster, Zelaya has traveled around the region to lobby for support from political leaders, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

U.S.-backed talks moderated by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias stalled over the interim government’s refusal to accept Zelaya’s reinstatement to the presidency. Arias’ proposal would limit Zelaya’s powers and prohibit him from attempting to revise the constitution.

Associated Press writer Freddy Cuevas in Tegucigalpa contributed to this report.

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