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US Deplores Honduras Violence, Urges Dialogue

The United States is deploring the violence associated with ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya's aborted effort to return to his country on Sunday, and has again appealed for dialogue among parties to that country's political conflict. Secretary of State Clinton is expected to meet Mr. Zelaya Tuesday.

The State Department is reiterating its call for the return to office of the elected president of Honduras, and officials say Secretary of State Clinton will likely meet Mr. Zelaya in Washington Tuesday in a high-level show of support for the ousted leader.

The United States joined in a unanimous vote Saturday by the Organization of American States to suspend Honduras because of the refusal of authorities there to reverse the June 28 coup, in which the elected president was detained by the military and put on a plane to Costa Rica.

Prior to his ouster, U.S. diplomats had been trying to mediate a dispute triggered by Mr. Zelaya's effort to stage a referendum that would have allowed him to seek another term as president.

Despite complaints of his critics that he was acting illegally, the United States has strongly opposed his unceremonious ouster. In a statement Monday, State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly said the U.S. goal remains "the restoration of the democratic order in Honduras" - while urging all the country's political actors to find a peaceful solution to the crisis.

Kelly expressed regret that the situation required the suspension of Honduras from the OAS, and said the United States looks forward to the day when circumstances will allow its return to the region body.

He also lamented the violence surrounding Mr. Zelayas attempted return home Sunday, in which troops barred his aircraft from landing, and a pro-Zelaya airport protester was killed.

"We deplore the use of force against demonstrators in Tegucigalpa in recent days," said Ian Kelly. "We once again call on the defacto regime, and all actors in Honduras, to refrain from all acts of violence, and seek a peaceful constitutional and lasting solution to the serious divisions in that country through dialogue."

Kelly also called on OAS member countries to reject incitement and the use of violence to effect political change, an apparent reference to threats by left-leaning OAS states supportive of Mr. Zelaya to return him to power through military intervention.

Though more than a week has passed without the restoration of the ousted president, a senior State Department official reiterated support for negotiations through the regional grouping, saying he does not think "the moment for the OAS has passed."

To back up OAS diplomacy, the United States is withholding disbursement of most U.S. aid money for Honduras pending a formal determination by State Department lawyers that the events of June 28 constitute a military coup and require an aid cut-off under U.S. law.

Kelly said under questioning the Obama administration is disinclined to make such a determination while OAS diplomacy is ongoing, but in the meantime has frozen aid categories that would be covered by an aid ban.

Annual U.S. aid to Honduras has recently averaged more than $50 million a year.