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Deadly clashes erupt at airport as tensions mount

Video by Olivia SALAZAR-WINSPEAR , Luke BROWN

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-07-06

Clashes erupted between Honduran troops and supporters of ousted President Manuel Zelaya at Tegucigalpa airport. At least one person was killed and two badly injured, according to emergency services.

AFP - Ousted President Manuel Zelaya headed back to crisis-gripped Honduras on Sunday, one week after he was kicked out of power and as interim leaders' threats to block his arrival sparked bloodshed.
   
The decision by Zelaya -- ousted by the military one week ago -- to return brought the political dispute over his plans to change the constitution to a dramatic climax.
   
Fears of bloodshed were confirmed as police said two people had been killed and two injured in clashes with soldiers who sought to break up tens of thousands of Zelaya supporters trying to enter Tegucigalpa's main airport.   
   
After Zelaya set off from Washington with a UN official, Honduran aviation officials said they had ordered his plane to divert to neighboring El Salvador.
   
Zelaya ordered Honduran armed forces to open the capital's airport, he told Venezuela's Telesur television.
   
In Washington, senior US officials said they had urged Zelaya not to return to his home country.
   
"A variety of countries spoke out in quite forceful fashion... against the wisdom of president Zelaya's effort to return to Honduras," an official said, commenting on a meeting of American nations that included the United States.
   
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Zelaya would travel to El Salvador and return to Washington if his arrival was blocked.
   
Meanwhile, interim leader Roberto Micheletti ramped up tensions by claiming that Nicaraguan troops were moving toward the countries' joint border, a claim Nicaraguan military immediately denied.
   
"We have been informed that in the sector of Nicaragua, some troops are moving toward the border," Micheletti said in a televised news conference.
   
In Managua, Nicaraguan general Adolfo Zepeda shot back that the information was "totally false."  
   
A defiant Zelaya left Washington in a Venezuelan plane accompanied by UN General Assembly President Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, said Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro.
   
The plane was due to land in Tegucigalpa at around 2300 GMT, Maduro said.
   
At the same time, another plane traveled to El Salvador carrying Miguel Insulza, the secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), which suspended Honduras in an emergency session late Saturday.
   
The presidents of Argentina, Ecuador and Paraguay were traveling with the OAS chief.
   
Interim leaders said they had put forward an offer for dialogue in "good faith" with the OAS, after they previously said they were pulling out of the body ahead of the suspension.
   
The interim government has proposed to the OAS "the start of a dialogue in good faith," interim deputy foreign minister Martha Lorena Alvarado said.
   
Micheletti also said that no one would pressure him, and still insisted he had taken power in a "constitutional succession."
   
The OAS suspended Honduras late Saturday for failing to reinstate Zelaya, in the first such move since the exclusion of Cuba in 1962.
   
Members of the pan-American body slammed the leaders of the coup which saw the army remove Zelaya in his pajamas a week ago at the height of a dispute with the courts, politicians and the army over his plans to change the constitution.
   
Night time curfews -- which suspend some freedoms guaranteed by the constitution -- and media blackouts have increased tension in one of Latin America's poorest countries.
   
A freezing of millions of dollars of international aid, regional trade blockades and recalls of foreign ambassadors have hit the country in the past week.
   
Chavez, Zelaya's main backer, has said that Venezuela would suspend key shipments of oil to Honduras, which he said would drive up gasoline prices.

Date created : 2009-07-06

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