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Honduran President Ousted by Military


Honduran military forces have ousted President Manuel Zelaya and exiled him to Costa Rica hours before a controversial constitutional referendum vote was set to begin. Organization of American States met in emergency session while the Obama administration expressed concern over events in the Central American nation.

Hounduran lawmakers named their leader, Roberto Micheletti, to replace President Zelaya. U.S. officials quickly responded that they will recognize no other president than Mr. Zelaya. Micheletti, head of the Honduran Congress, said after his swearing-in that Mr. Zelaya's removal from office was not a coup.

President Zelaya says Honduran troops forcibly removed him from his home in the dead of night and sent him to Costa Rica in his pajamas.

The expulsion came on the day Mr. Zelaya had chosen for a referendum on whether to change the constitution to allow him to run for a second term in office. The president pressed ahead with the vote in defiance of Honduras' Supreme Court, which had declared the measure illegal.

In a news conference at the airport in San Jose, Costa Rica, Mr. Zelaya said he is the victim of a coup d'etat.

The Honduran leader said he has been kidnapped with violence and brutality, which he termed an affront to the entire world that brings back memories of past dictatorships in the Americas. Appearing alongside Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, Mr. Zelaya said he wants to return to Honduras as president and that he is counting on the support of all democratic governments, including that of the United States.

In Washington, President Obama issued a statement saying he is "deeply concerned" by events in Honduras. He urged all political and social actors in the country to respect democratic norms, the rule of law, and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Hondurans to respect their country's constitutional order.

Blocks away from the White House, the Organization of American States met in an emergency session. Honduras' ambassador to the body [Carlos Sosa Coello] demanded what he termed an 'emphatic condemnation" of the coup.

OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza echoed the call:

Inzulza said what has occurred is a military coup that must be condemned with energy. He said the OAS must issue a clear demand for a return to constitutional order and insist that human rights be respected.

President Zelaya is a political ally of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, who pledged to do everything possible to reverse the coup.

Honduras is to hold presidential elections in November. The country's 1982 constitution bans Mr. Zelaya's re-election.

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