Zelaya vows to return as violence spreads

Zelaya vows to return as violence spreads

Supporters of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya clash with riot police

as their ousted leader seeks to gather international support.

Photo by: AFP

A demonstrator lies in the street during clashes between supporters of ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya and riot police and soldiers in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on Monday. Zelaya is to address the UN General Assembly this week as member states have roundly condemned the coup.

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras - Mobilising international support, ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya vowed to return to Honduras as angry supporters clashed with riot police near the presidential palace here.

Zelaya told a meeting of regional leaders in the Nicaraguan capital Managua he planned to travel Tuesday to Washington, where US President Barack Obama has denounced the coup as illegal, and to New York to speak before the UN General Assembly.

"I go to Tegucigalpa on Thursday," Zelaya said, setting up a potentially explosive showdown with the newly installed administration of congressional leader Roberto Micheletti.

Zelaya also accepted the offer of Jose Miguel Insulza, the head of the Organisation of American States, to accompany him back to Honduras, along with leaders of other friendly countries who may wish to travel with him.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez urged Zelaya to meet with Obama, saying the US president's attention to the matter could "deliver a major blow" to those who ousted Zelaya.

In Tegucigalpa, hundreds of angry Zelaya supporters, defying a government curfew Monday, erected barricades near the presidential palace.

They threw rocks and Molotov cocktails and used pipes and metal bars against shield-bearing riot police. The security forces cracked down with tear gas and gunfire, an AFP photographer said.

The violence, the most serious unrest in years in this Central American country, left several demonstrators and security forces injured.

Obama said the United States believed Zelaya "remains the president of Honduras" a day after troops bundled the 57-year-old out of his bed in pajamas and whisked him away to exile in Costa Rica.

Obama said the coup was "not legal" and called for international cooperation to solve the crisis peacefully.

The State Department warned US citizens against travel to Honduras, saying the coup had led to an "unstable political and security situation".

Americans already in the Central American country were advised to stay close to their homes or hotels "unless their travel is of a life-or-death nature, or a scheduled departure from Honduras".

Just hours after Zelaya was deposed, the Honduran Congress swore in its speaker Micheletti as the interim president until January.

In one of his first acts, Micheletti imposed a 48-hour curfew on the capital and insisted he had come to power via a legal process. He also began naming members of his cabinet.

But Zelaya has said he remains the elected leader, and scores of young people, many wearing scarves to cover their faces, protested in the capital Tegucigalpa Monday. Shots were heard in the city late Sunday. 

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