Obama says ousted Zelaya remains president of Honduras

WASHINGTON- President Barack Obama said Monday the United States believes that ousted leader Manuel Zelaya "remains the president of Honduras" and the coup in his country was a throwback to a "dark past."
Obama addressed the political crisis in Honduras following talks with Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe and warned the coup was a backward step after two decades of "enormous" political progress" for the Western Hemisphere.

"President Zelaya was democratically elected. He had not yet completed his term," Obama told reporters.
"We believe that the coup was not legal and that President Zelaya remains the president of Honduras, the democratically elected president there.
"It would be a terrible precedent if we start moving backwards into the era in which we are seeing military coups as a means of political transition rather than democratic elections."
Obama said that the region had made "enormous strides" on democratic reform over past decades, and the Honduran situation ran counter to the prevailing trend.
"We don't want to go back to a dark past, the United States has not always stood as it should with some of these fledgling democracies," Obama said.
The president said he believed that both Republicans and Democrats now believed Washington should always stand on the side of democracies "even if the results don't always mean the leaders of those countries are favorable towards the United States."
Obama's spokesman Robert Gibbs meanwhile declined to speculate on the kind of leverage that the United States could bring to bear on the crisis, and would not say whether the president would withdraw the US ambassador to Honduras.
Leftist nations in the region including Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Cuba announced Monday they were withdrawing their ambassadors from Honduras.
Soldiers removed Zelaya from his bed early on Sunday and sent him to Costa Rica, sparking international outcry.
Zelaya's overthrow was triggered by a standoff between the president and the military and legal institutions over his bid for a vote on changing the constitution, which would allow him a stab at a second term.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meanwhile said that the immediate US priority was to restore full democratic and constitutional order" in Honduras.
"As we move forward, all parties have a responsibility to address the underlying problems that led to yesterday's events in a way that enhance democracy and the rule of law in Honduras," Clinton added.
Zelaya, who was ousted after clashing with the military over plans to try to revise the constitution and allow him to stand for a second term, has insisted he remains the president of the Central American nation.
But interim leader Roberto Micheletti, sworn in on Sunday, has already begun naming members of his government and says he came to power by "legal process."

Monday, June 29th 2009

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