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Honduran army stops the ousted president

HONDURAS' interim government closed its main airport to all flights yesterday after blocking the runway to prevent the return of ousted President Manuel Zelaya. Clashes with his supporters caused the first death in a week of protests.

Police and soldiers blanketed the streets of the capital early yesterday, enforcing a sunset-to-sunrise curfew with batons and metal poles. Civil aviation authorities announced a 24-hour ban on all flights at the country's main airport yesterday.

Soldiers clashed on Sunday with thousands of Zelaya backers massed at the airport in hopes of welcoming home the deposed leader removed a week earlier.

But military vehicles and soldiers blocked the runway. Pilots of the plane loaned by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez circled the airport and decided not to risk a crash.

Zelaya instead headed for El Salvador, and vowed to again try to return to power in a country where all branches of government have lined up against him.

"I call on the Armed Forces of Honduras to lower their rifles," he told a news conference, flanked by the presidents of El Salvador, Argentina, Paraguay and Ecuador, and the secretary-general of the Organization of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza.

Insulza said he "is open to continuing all appropriate diplomatic overtures to obtain our objective."

But interim Honduran President Roberto Micheletti said he won't negotiate until "things return to normal."

"We will be here until the country calms down," he said. "We are the authentic representatives of the people."

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said yesterday he is saddened by the loss of life in Honduras and again called the coup unacceptable.


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