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Two pro-Zelaya protesters killed in unrest

Two men have died in unrest following the return to Honduras of deposed president Manuel Zelaya, who has been sheltering in the Brazilian embassy. The deaths come amid renewed efforts to negotiate a peaceful end to the political standoff.


AFP - Deposed President Manuel Zelaya hunkered down at the Brazilian embassy in Honduras Wednesday as police said two men had died in clashes sparked by his return, with protests continuing to grow.

Zelaya's surprise return on Monday, almost three months after he was ousted, spun the Central American nation into chaos and threw it into the international spotlight as world leaders gathered at the UN General Assembly in New York.

The Organization of American States announced it would send a new mediation mission to Honduras at the weekend, and return ambassadors recalled after the coup, OAS chief Jose Miguel Insulza said Wednesday.

United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon meanwhile announced the withdrawal of election assistance to the crisis-hit Central American nation, saying conditions were not favorable for the poll set for November.

The deposed president, along with scores of his supporters, journalists and embassy staff, remained sequestered inside the embassy, which was running short on food and hit by temporary cuts in electricity, water and telephone lines.

Thousands of red-clad Zelaya supporters poured onto the streets of the capital Tegucigalpa Wednesday in one of the largest pro-Zelaya demonstrations since the president's June 28 ouster.

Two men have died in the unrest that broke out after Zelaya's return, police said.

One man died Wednesday in hospital after being injured in clashes with anti-riot police the previous night, said Orlin Cerrato, spokesman for the National Police.

"We don't know have the other person died," Cerrato said, adding that the victim had been involved in a protest against the coup.

Hundreds of Hondurans meanwhile flocked to gas stations and supermarkets to stock up during a brief respite from a nationwide curfew.

The interim leaders resumed the curfew indefinitely at 5:00 pm (2300 GMT) Wednesday.

Zelaya told AFP from inside the embassy that he sought face-to-face talks with de facto leader Roberto Micheletti on restoring his presidency.

"That's the goal, to talk personally with him -- not only with him, but also with the political and economic groups in the country," Zelaya said by telephone from the embassy.

Micheletti offered late Tuesday to hold direct talks with Zelaya if he recognized the validity of the November 29 elections, but the ousted leader dismissed that offer as "manipulation."

The United States earlier welcomed the invitation by the interim leaders -- who shut down airports and imposed curfews after Zelaya's return -- for senior international diplomats to visit the country, ahead of the OAS announcement.

In New York, Argentine President Cristina Kirchner called for a "strong, precise multilateral strategy" to return democracy to Honduras.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva demanded that Zelaya be restored to power immediately, and Brazil has asked the UN Security Council to take up the Honduran crisis.

The country's embassy now lies at the center of a tense waiting game to see how long the occupants can hold out.

Most access to the embassy had been denied, although US embassy vehicles removed some Brazilian staff on Tuesday.

Honduran writer Milton Benitez, a staunch Zelaya supporter in the embassy, complained of deteriorating conditions.

"We're still wearing the same clothing, we haven't been able to bathe," Benitez said, calling the conditions "sub-human."

Some exhausted Zelaya supporters inside stood guard all night long, wary of a possible attack on the building by troops, though Micheletti's government Tuesday insisted they would not enter the compound by force.

The European Union told the interim government to respect the "physical integrity" of Zelaya and the inviolability of the embassy.

Amnesty International meanwhile expressed alarm at the escalating tension in Honduras, saying human rights and the rule of law were at "grave risk."

The London-based rights group called for the authorities to end their reported crackdown on Zelaya supporters.

The deposed president veered to the left after his election to a single term in 2005, influenced by fellow leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

The army sent Zelaya away at gunpoint, backed by the country's courts and congress, amid a fierce dispute over his plans to change the constitution.

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