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Zelaya stirs concern of Honduras showdown

HONDURAS braced for confrontation yesterday as ousted President Manuel Zelaya insisted on coming home to reclaim his post, urging his supporters to mass at the airport for a showdown with the interim government in power since the army sent him into exile a week ago.

The interim government said it ordered the military to prevent the landing of a plane carrying Zelaya or any unidentified plane.

"The government of President (Roberto) Micheletti has ordered the armed forces and the police not to allow the entrance of any plane bringing the former leader," the foreign minister of the interim government, Enrique Ortez, said yesterday.

At the main airport in the capital Tegucigalpa, soldiers outnumbered travelers and most commercial flights were canceled. Access roads were cut off by police checkpoints, with soldiers standing guard alongside.

The poor Central American country's Roman Catholic archbishop and its human right commissioner urged Zelaya to stay away, warning that his return could spark bloodshed.

The interim government said it would arrest Zelaya and put him on trial despite near-universal international condemnation of the coup that removed him as he campaigned to revise the constitution.

In Washington, the Organization of American States suspended Honduras as a member on Saturday. Micheletti preemptively pulled out of OAS earlier rather than comply with an ultimatum that Zelaya be restored.

As more than 10,000 of Zelaya's supporters protested on Saturday near the heavily guarded presidential palace, Zelaya posted an audio message on the Internet urging loyalists to greet his arrival.

"We are going to show up at the Honduras International Airport in Tegucigalpa ... and we will be in Tegucigalpa," Zelaya said in the taped statement on Saturday.

He implored supporters to remain peaceful.


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