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Obama Calls for Return of Honduran President

U.S. President Barack Obama says the removal of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was illegal and sets a bad precedent for the region. Mr. Obama spoke after a White House meeting with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.

President Obama says the ouster of President Zelaya by the Honduran military must be reversed.

"We believe that the coup was not legal and that President Zelaya remains the President of Honduras - the democratically elected president there," said President Obama.

Mr. Obama says the United States is joining with others, including the Organization of American States, demanding that President Zelaya be reinstated. He says there is great concern throughout the region about the situation in Honduras.

"It would be a terrible precedent if we start moving backwards to an era in which we are seeing military coups as a way of political transition, rather than democratic elections," said Mr. Obama.

Events in Honduras added a sense of urgency to Mr. Obama's talks with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. Other issues discussed included economic matters - most notably, the pending U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

As a member of the U.S. Senate, Mr. Obama was cool to the deal, saying that it did not do enough to address human rights abuses in Colombia.

But as he met with Alvaro Uribe, President Obama said he was confident that problems with the trade agreement could be rectified. He said he sees progress on the human rights front in Colombia, but added that much more needs to be done.

"I have noted a special concern that is bipartisan and shared by both this administration and Congress - that the human rights issues in Colombia get resolved," he said. "President Uribe has assured me that he is interested in resolving those issues."

Of the three pending free trade agreements negotiated by the Bush administration, the one with Colombia might be the most controversial.

Supporters say it will bolster a key U.S. ally that is taking on narcoterrorists.

Opponents say Colombia remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for union organizers, and that it does not do enough to enforce workers' rights.  

 

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