De facto government threatens not to recognise Brazil mission
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The Honduran government has said that if Brazil does not decide in 10 days what to with ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, the diplomatic status of the Brazilian mission, in which he is holed up, will be revoked.
AFP - De facto leaders in Honduras took an increasingly hard line Sunday, expelling four members of the Organization of American States and threatening to revoke Brazil's diplomatic status.
Ousted President Manuel Zelaya has been holed up in the Brazilian embassy since his surprise return to the country last week, almost three months after soldiers sent him away at gunpoint.
"If the status of Zelaya is not defined within 10 days, the embassy will lose its diplomatic condition," the de facto foreign minister told a news conference.
"Out of courtesy, an invasion of the site is not being considered," Carlos Lopez Contreras added.
The regime late Saturday already gave Brazil a 10-day ultimatum to decide what to do with Zelaya, which Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has already rejected.
"The Brazilian government does not obey the ultimatum of the coup leaders nor recognize the interim government that seized power," Lula told reporters in Venezuela.
Zelaya's supporters, who have protested every day since his June 28 ouster, meanwhile prepared for mass action Monday to stage a "final offensive" on the capital to push for his return to office.
Five members of the Organization of American States were detained for six hours at the international airport in Honduras Sunday, and four were expelled, John Biehl, the only OAS official to enter the country, told AFP.
The OAS representatives were seeking to lay the groundwork for a mediation effort as tensions rose between the country's de facto leaders and Zelaya.
"We were detained at the airport. There were two Americans, two Canadians, one Colombian and myself in the group," said Biehl, an advisor to Jose Miguel Insulza, the Secretary General of the pan-American body.
"We were detained for six hours... as a Chilean, I have to say that it brought back some bad memories," Biehl said, alluding to the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.
The de facto regime in Honduras, which has been under growing fire for its heavy-handed clampdown since ouster of Zelaya, had sought to postpone the OAS mission.
Zelaya called late Saturday for a "final offensive against the de facto government," to coincide with the three-month anniversary of the coup, from his embassy refuge where he is holed up with some 60 supporters, diplomats and journalists.
Farm workers from across Honduras were descending on the capital to voice support for Zelaya, religious leader Andres Tamayo told AFP from inside the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa on Sunday.
"Farmers are traveling by themselves, on public transport, because if they come in groups or in cars, the police and army will stop them at the checkpoints," Tamayo said.
The return last week of Zelaya, whom the army expelled in a dispute with the country's courts, congress and business leaders on changing the constitution, rose the stakes in the polarized Central American nation.
The de facto leaders are seeking to arrest Zelaya on treason and abuse of authority charges for ignoring court orders to drop plans for a referendum on rewriting the text.
They have now called on diplomats from countries that have cut ties with Honduras since the coup to give up their credentials and diplomatic license plates, as well as remove those nations' flags and other insignia from buildings.
Two officials from the Spanish embassy were turned back at the Honduran airport on Sunday as they returned to the country after vacationing abroad, a diplomatic source told AFP.
The UN Security Council has warned the regime headed by Roberto Micheletti not to harass the Brazilian embassy, as officials complained it was "under siege."
Demonstrators have come almost daily to the embassy compound, which is surrounded by anti-riot police and soldiers, to show their support for their ousted leader renowned for his white cowboy hat.
Several thousand Zelaya supporters took to the streets again Saturday.
Two people have been killed in pro-Zelaya protests since the start of the week according to police, and rights groups have voiced concern about clampdowns on demonstrators and local media.
With options for a rapid solution fading away, the United Nations on Wednesday also froze its technical support for a presidential vote scheduled for November.
Interim officials still hope to carry out the poll, which they say is the best exit to the crisis.
Zelaya, a rancher who veered to the left after his election and alliance with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, is constitutionally barred from standing for reelection.