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Curfew is lifted as Zelaya holds Washington talks


Latest update : 2009-07-13

The curfew in Honduras, imposed in the wake of the country's leader Manuel Zelaya being ousted, has been lifted. Zelaya has spent a second day in Washington, seeking to shore up international support for his return to power.

AFP - A two-week-old nationwide curfew in Honduras was lifted Sunday as the country's ousted leader Manuel Zelaya spent a second day in Washington, seeking to shore up international support for his return to power.
"By virtue of having reached the objectives of this regulation, the government announces that from Sunday, July 12, the curfew is lifted across the entire country," the government said in a statement broadcast on Honduran television and radio.
Roberto Micheletti, the man designated as Honduran head of state after Zelaya's explusion from the country last month, imposed the curfew after the June 28 military-backed ouster, saying it was needed to restore calm.
But, even before the curfew was lifted, a justice building and the headquarters of a television station supportive of Micheletti came under grenade attack, according to authorities who said they had defused at least 10 explosive devices.
Meanwhile, in Washington, Zelaya sought fresh support from the US administration and the Organization of American States (OAS) in meetings over the weekend.
The overthrown president flew from the Dominican Republic to Washington on Saturday, meeting with the top US official for Latin America, Thomas Shannon, and OAS head Jose Miguel Insulza.
Rodolfo Pastor, a Honduran embassy official loyal to Zelaya, told AFP that the meeting was "part of the ongoing negotiations" for the ousted leader's return to power, adding that Zelaya and Insulza might hold more talks Sunday.
Earlier in the week, Zelaya and Micheletti participated in negotiations mediated by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, a Nobel Peace Prize winner for his work resolving Latin America's bloody civil wars.
But the talks did not produce any tangible results, with the two men refusing to meet face to face, despite the strong support for the meetings offered by the United States and the OAS.
The stalemate provoked anxiety among Zelaya's supporters in Tegucigalpa, who fear that the interim government is seeking to "buy time," said Marvin Ponce, a lawmaker with the leftist Democratic Unification Party (PUD).
Zelaya's support is largely drawn from labor unions and the poor in the impoverished Central American country of more than seven million.
In a bid to increase pressure on the interim leaders, Zelaya supporters renewed their blockades of roads and bridges. They also marched to the airport to pay tribute to a youth killed on July 5, when the ousted Honduran leader aborted an attempt to land in Tegucigalpa.
Meanwhile, Micheletti's backers organized a massive prayer for peace in the capital's baseball stadium, backed by the Catholic Church, evangelical groups and the local Jewish community.
"We have come here to ask for peace and wisdom necessary to build a new Honduras," said Darwin Andino, assistant archbishop of Tegucigalpa.
German Cuevas, a representative of the Jewish community, said the religious leaders had prayed in hopes "to unite the Honduran people and make it overcome differences in search for peace."
Zelaya, a wealthy rancher who moved sharply left after taking office in January 2006, rattled his country's ruling elite by trying to bypass Congress to hold a referendum on rewriting the constitution.
He has denied charges that the move was a bid to lift the one-term presidential limit so he could seek re-election this year.
Argentina's former ambassador to Honduras, Alfredo Forti, warned that soldiers could stop supporting the military-backed coup that ousted Zelaya.
The army is divided and some soldiers "believe there is a time when they will have to revise their position in order to avoid a bloodbath," Forti, the envoy to Tegucigalpa from 2004 to 2007, told Argentina's Clarin newspaper.
Also Sunday, journalists from Venezuela-based regional television network Telesur accused Micheletti's government of harassing them and threatening to expel them from the country.
"It is a clear case of intimidation against Telesur," said Madelein Garcia, a Telesur journalist who sought refuge in the Venezuelan embassy in Tegucigalpa.
A Honduran government official denied the accusations and told AFP that police questioned several Telesur employees about their immigration status.

Date created : 2009-07-12