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Ousted Honduran President Travels to Border to Demand Return

The ousted Honduran president traveled to the border between Nicaragua and Honduras in an effort to press the de facto government to allow him to return home. Scores of Honduran security forces lined up to block his entry.

Ousted President Manuel Zelaya rode by jeep across northern Nicaragua to a small border town in an effort to return home, nearly a month after being removed from power. Mr. Zelaya lifted up a chain marking the border and briefly stepped into his home country before returning to Nicaraguan soil.

He said he was going in peace, as the democratically elected president of the country. He added the Honduran people will never accept a dictatorship that uses the military against its own people.

Honduran police and troops massed at the remote border crossing, where they used trucks to block the road connecting the two countries. Officials also declared a curfew at noon along the border, and set up checkpoints on Honduran roads to stop Mr. Zelaya's supporters from traveling to the border to meet him. Troops fired tear gas during a brief clash with supporters of Mr. Zelaya.

The ousted president made the trip after expressing frustration at mediation efforts led by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, who has been seeking a compromise. Mr. Zelaya has said he will only accept a deal that allows him to return to the presidency, but the de facto government has rejected that possibility.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Phillip Crowley expressed concern that Mr. Zelaya's return could lead to violence. "We have said to President Zelaya on a number of occasions that right now we think the focus should remain on the current negotiating and mediation effort of President Arias, and that any return to Honduras would be premature," he said.

Crowley said Mr. Zelaya was expected in Washington on Tuesday for talks with U.S. officials.

The United States and other countries have refused to recognize the de facto government in Tegucigalpa. Recently, U.S. and European Union officials decided to suspend crucial aid money to the Central American nation because of the crisis.

The de facto Honduran government has said, if Mr. Zelaya returns, he will be arrested to face charges, including of abuse of power. The Supreme Court ordered his removal from office last month because of his plans to hold a referendum that the court had declared illegal. Hours before the controversial vote was to begin, military forces arrested him at his home and flew him out of the country.

Critics say Mr. Zelaya was seeking to remain in office by changing the constitution to lift a ban on re-election. The ousted leader says any possible change would have taken effect after he left office this year.