- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 23, 2009

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras | Baton-wielding soldiers used tear gas and water cannons to chase away thousands who demonstrated outside the Brazilian Embassy, leaving deposed President Manuel Zelaya and 70 friends and family members trapped inside without water, electricity or phones.

“We know we are in danger,” Mr. Zelaya said during interviews with various media outlets Tuesday. “We are ready to risk everything, to sacrifice.”

Soldiers stood guard on neighboring rooftops and helicopters buzzed overhead.

Mr. Zelaya, forced out of his country at gunpoint, triumphantly reappeared 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.

Interim President Roberto Micheletti’s response was terse: Initially, he said Mr. Zelaya was lying about being there, and then - after Mr. Zelaya appeared on national television - Mr. Micheletti pressed Brazil to hand Mr. Zelaya over so he could be arrested under a warrant issued by the Supreme Court charging treason and abuse of authority.

Some officials suggested even the embassy would be no haven.

“The inviolability of a diplomatic mission does not imply the protection of delinquents or fugitives from justice,” said Mr. Micheletti’s Foreign Ministry adviser, Mario Fortinthe.

Mr. Micheletti later told Reuters news agency that he has no intention of confronting Brazil or entering its embassy. He said Mr. Zelaya can stay in the embassy for “five to 10 years” if he wants to, but urged the leftist ex-president to turn himself over to authorities to face charges of corruption and violating the constitution.

Police and soldiers set up a ring of security in a three-mile perimeter around the embassy. Mr. Micheletti closed airports and borders, and baton-wielding police fired tear gas to chase thousands of demonstrators away from the embassy, where Mr. Zelaya’s supporters had gathered.

Some gas canisters fell inside the walls of the embassy, where Mr. Zelaya, his wife, some of their children, Cabinet members and journalists held hushed conversations, napped on couches and curled up on the floor beneath travel posters of Brazilian beaches.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva phoned Mr. Zelaya and pressed him not to do anything that might provoke an invasion of the diplomatic mission.

Embassy staffers were told to stay home and most did, and embassy charge d’affaires Francisco Catunda Resende said water, phone and electricity services had been cut, leaving the mission with a diesel-powered generator, according to a spokesman with Brazil’s Foreign Ministry, who did not give his name in keeping with policy.

A senior U.S. official said that Brazil has asked for U.S. assistance in restoring power and water to the embassy, and in acquiring generators, fuel and water.

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

Mr. Zelaya apparently timed his surprise arrival in Honduras’ capital to coincide with world leaders gathering this week at the United Nations in New York, putting renewed international pressure on the interim government, which has already shrugged aside sharp foreign-aid cuts and diplomatic denunciations since the coup.

Mr. Zelaya was removed in June after he repeatedly ignored court orders to drop plans for a referendum on reforming the constitution. His opponents feared he wanted to end a constitutional ban on re-election - a charge Mr. Zelaya 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.

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