- coups - Honduras - Latin America - military junta - United Nations - USA
AFP - Hopes for a rapid diplomatic resolution to the crisis in Honduras were dampened Friday as the Supreme Court told a top regional envoy the ousting of President Manuel Zelaya was irreversible.
A spokesman for the court said it had told Jose Miguel Insulza, head of the Organization of American States, that the removal of Zelaya in a coup last Sunday was "irreversible," in defiance of an OAS demand he be reinstated.
Insulza was taking part in talks here with politicians and legal and religious figures as the OAS warned Honduras would face expulsion by a Saturday deadline if it did not reinstate Zelaya.
That move appeared more likely following Friday's talks.
Insulza "thinks they will vote to suspend (Honduras)," one diplomat said, after the OAS chief met with the G16 group of donors to the Central American nation, which includes the United States, the World Bank and Japan.
"(He) told us he thought it was a crisis that would last a long time."
Insulza said that "no one wants to budge," according to another diplomat, shortly after a spokesman for the Supreme Court gave its verdict.
The OAS chief was due to return to Washington on Saturday, where the regional body would vote on whether to suspend Honduras from the 35-nation group -- a threat last carried out on Cuba in 1962 -- diplomats said.
Diplomats said Insulza had dismissed any idea of negotiating with the instigators of the coup, and did not meet with the attorney general.
The leaders who deposed Zelaya said they may consider holding early elections to end the impasse, but remained defiant at demonstrations in the capital Friday.
"I'm president of all Hondurans," shouted interim leader Roberto Micheletti -- who was sworn in by Congress hours after Zelaya was ousted -- to a crowd of thousands of supporters.
Thousands of Zelaya supporters demonstrated nearby in Tegucigalpa.
Soldiers bundled Zelaya into a plane at dawn Sunday and sent him to Costa Rica after a dispute with the country's courts, politicians and army over his attempts to change the constitution to allow him to run for a second term.
The growing demonstrations, a freezing of international aid and recalls of foreign ambassadors have since shaken the country.
In the first unrest in three days, the army clashed with demonstrators in northern Honduras Thursday.
With their lives also disrupted by night-time curfews -- which suspend some freedoms guaranteed by the constitution -- as well as media blackouts and reported detentions, the 7.5 million inhabitants of one of Latin America's poorest countries have become increasingly frustrated.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said Friday that Zelaya could return on "Saturday or more likely Sunday."
Zelaya meanwhile said Thursday in Panama that a string of personalities would join him when he returned to the country, including Nobel Prize winners and presidents, although he did not mention a return date.
Friends and foes in the international community have joined together to heap pressure on Honduras, including aid freezes from the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank.
The United States, a key ally, has indicated it may follow suit, saying it would wait until Monday before making a decision.
The Honduran finance minister lamented in Chile Friday that between 300 and 450 million dollars of foreign aid was frozen.
"This irregular situation in my country puts social investment programs in a very precarious situation," Rebeca Santos said.
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, Zelaya's key backer, announced that Caracas was suspending shipments of oil to Honduras, which he said would drive up gasoline prices.
All EU countries with embassies in Honduras have withdrawn their ambassadors and Central American countries and Latin American leftists have announced similar measures, as has Colombia.
The Pentagon has suspended all military activities with Tegucigalpa until further notice.