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Zelaya calls for more protests

Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya has told thousands of supporters to keep resisting the regime which staged a coup three months ago. Meanwhile, the UN has called for the Brazilian embassy where Zelaya is holed up to remain secure.


AFP - Deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya on Friday told his supporters to keep protesting for his return to office, despite the start of tentative talks with the de facto regime.

The UN Security Council meanwhile warned the rebel authorities not to harass the Brazilian embassy where Zelaya is besieged.

Monday's return of the former rancher renowned for his white cowboy hat, almost three months after soldiers sent him away at gunpoint, added to increasing tension in the polarized country.

Some 6,000 increasingly frustrated Zelaya supporters spilled onto the streets again Friday, passing by rows of soldiers in front of the Brazilian embassy.

"We urge the resistance to maintain the battle until together, people and president, we achieve the constitutional reforms and the fall of the usurpers," Zelaya said in a statement earlier.

Zelaya was referring to his campaign to change the constitution that set off the crisis, and provoked his ouster.

"Thanks, Brazil!" shouted some of the red-clad protesters.

"No pardon or forgetting! Death to the coup leaders!" shouted others.

Following initial power and water cuts, Zelaya accused soldiers of releasing a toxic gas inside, causing some occupants to vomit blood.

Around 60 people remained in the compound, including Zelaya supporters, journalists and diplomats.

In New York, the UN Security Council called for the protection of the Brazilian embassy at a emergency meeting.

Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said the embassy was "virtually under siege."

The de facto leaders have insisted the compound will not be taken by force and denied they were responsible for power and water cuts.

Confusion surrounded the next international efforts to mediate the crisis.

The de facto leaders on Thursday said they would accept a visit by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias and Panama's Vice President Juan Carlos Varela as part of a mediation effort proposed by former US president Jimmy Carter.

But Arias told Costa Rican radio Friday from New York that he was not planning "for the moment" to go to Honduras.

"The preliminary work needs to be done by the (foreign) ministers" of the Organization of American States (OAS), Arias added.

The de facto leaders had asked the OAS to postpone a mediation mission until after the talks with Arias.

But OAS chief Jose Miguel Insulza told Chilean radio that the pan-American body would send a mission to Honduras by the weekend to prepare mediation efforts.

"It will be difficult, but with the good will of both sides, the problem will be resolved," Insulza said.

Arias, a Nobel peace laureate, had proposed a settlement in July under which Zelaya would be restored as president, November elections for a new president would be brought forward, and amnesty would be granted to those who took part in the June 28 coup.

The ousted leader meanwhile played down the announcement that dialogue had begun with de facto leader Roberto Micheletti for the first time since his surprise return home.

"There are informal links for talks to lead to dialogue but this can't change until there's a change in the attitude of the current de facto regime," Zelaya said in a statement.

France meanwhile announced it would send back its ambassador, who was withdrawn after the coup, as soon as possible following Zelaya's return.

Countries from the pan-American OAS will also return their ambassadors, a French foreign ministry statement said.

A daytime curfew was lifted Thursday and airports reopened, allowing businesses to resume and providing relief to a public that has grown increasingly impatient. A nighttime curfew remained in place.

The International Monetary Fund said Thursday it would still recognize Zelaya as head of state of Honduras, which would prevent the de facto leaders from access to loans.

The United Nations on Wednesday froze its technical support for the November presidential poll.

Neither Zelaya nor Micheletti are standing for election but the interim government hopes to stay in office until the vote, to keep Zelaya out.

A police spokesman told AFP Wednesday that two people had been killed in pro-Zelaya protests since the start of the week, and rights groups have voiced concern about clampdowns on demonstrators and local media.

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