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Curfew imposed as ousted president returns

Honduran President Manuel Zelaya (photo) made a surprise return to the Central American nation almost three months after he was ousted. Meanwhile, the de facto rulers announced a curfew for Tuesday to prevent protests in favor of Zelaya.


Deposed Honduras President Manuel Zelaya on Monday made a surprise return to the Central American nation almost three months after soldiers expelled him at gunpoint.

Meanwhile, the de facto rulers of Honduras announced a daytime curfew for Tuesday to prevent protests in favor of the ousted Zelaya.

The pro-coup administration of Roberto Micheletti said in a statement it was extending a night-time curfew on Monday until
Tuesday evening.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton welcomed Zelaya's return as an opportunity to end the country's political stalemate.

His rivals called for Brazil, in whose embassy he emerged, to hand him over.

The Honduran military sent Zelaya away in his pajamas on June 28, backed by the country's courts and congress, at the height of a tense standoff over his plans to change the constitution.

"Now that President Zelaya is back it would be opportune to restore him to his position under appropriate circumstances, get on with the election that is currently scheduled for November, have a peaceful transition of presidential authority and get Honduras back to constitutional and democratic order," Clinton told reporters in New York.

Clinton met there with Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, who has brokered failed peace talks but was upbeat Monday following the latest development.

"I think this is the best opportunity, the best time, now that Zelaya is back in his country," Arias said.

A smiling Zelaya, sporting his trademark cowboy hat, appeared back in the capital on the balcony of the Brazilian embassy.

As thousands of his supporters took to the streets of a tense Tegucigalpa, the interim leaders imposed a 15-hour curfew.

"I call on the Brazilian government to respect the judicial order handed down against Mr Zelaya and deliver him to the competent authorities of Honduras," interim leader Roberto Micheletti said in remarks broadcast on radio and television.

Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said earlier that his country had played no role in Zelaya's return, but that it had simply accepted his demand for asylum in its embassy.

"We hope this will open a new stage in the discussions and a rapid solution," Amorim told a news conference in New York.

The Organization of American States (OAS) -- a pan-American body which suspended Honduras after the coup -- called for the interim leaders to respect Zelaya's life, during an emergency session.

"They have to be responsible for the security of President Zelaya and the Brazilian embassy," said OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza in a statement.

Insulza said that he was ready to travel to Honduras as soon as possible, probably on Tuesday.

Many feared further violence following clashes between the army and Zelaya supporters during his two previous attempts to return, in which several people died.

Zelaya revealed few details of his journey of more than 15 hours to sneak back into the impoverished nation where he faces arrest.

Zelaya said his return from exile in Nicaragua was part of a "peaceful strategy," following the failed Costa Rica-led crisis talks, in comments to CNN's Spanish-language news channel.

"We're hoping for international cooperation so that Honduras returns to calm," said Zelaya, who is due to speak before the United Nations general assembly in New York on Wednesday.

The United States, the European Union and Latin American countries took measures to isolate Honduras after the coup, including aid freezes. They still consider Zelaya to be the country's legitimate president.

Micheletti has said he will step aside after presidential elections are held on November 29.

The internationally-backed mediation bid failed after the interim leaders refused to accept Zelaya's return to power as part of a unity government.

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