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Honduran president's ouster illegal, says Obama

US President Barack Obama has said the expulsion of the Honduran president by the country's armed forces was illegal and reminiscent of Central America's "dark past".

world Updated: Jun 30, 2009 15:19 IST

US President Barack Obama has said the expulsion of the Honduran president by the country's armed forces was illegal and reminiscent of Central America's "dark past".

Speaking to reporters alongside visiting Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, Obama repeated his condemnation of Sunday's events in Honduras, where the army ousted President Mel Zelaya and forced him into exile in Costa Rica.

"It would be a terrible precedent if we start moving backwards into the era in which we are seeing military coups as a means of political transition rather than democratic elections," Obama said in the Oval Office Monday.

The situation in Honduras has "evolved into a coup", Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said earlier Monday, adding that the US does not plan to suspend aid to the Central American nation.

"Our immediate priority is to restore full democratic and constitutional order in that country," Clinton said at a press conference.

She said the US will not suspend aid to Honduras, even though many assistance programmes are conditioned on the country's adherence to democratic principles.

"We haven't laid out any demands, because we're working with others on behalf of our ultimate objectives, which are shared broadly," she said when asked whether Washington was insisting on Zelaya's reinstatement.

"So we think that the arrest and expulsion of a president is certainly cause for concern that has to be addressed. And it's not just with respect to whether our aid continues, but whether democracy in Honduras continues," Clinton said.

Honduran lawmakers voted Sunday to make Congress speaker Roberto Micheletti the country's interim president.

He promised that the general elections scheduled for Nov 29 would proceed as planned.

The 128-member Congress elected Micheletti to serve the six months remaining in Zelaya's four-year term, which was set to end Jan 27, 2010.

Congress justified Zelaya's removal from office on the grounds that he threatened the constitutional order by trying to hold a non-binding referendum on his proposal for a national assembly next year to overhaul the Central American country's constitution.

Soldiers arrested Zelaya a few hours before the referendum was set to begin Sunday and he was flown to Costa Rica.

Congress and the Supreme Court had both declared the referendum illegal.

The US called on Honduran officials to respect democracy.

"I am deeply concerned by reports coming out of Honduras regarding the detention and expulsion of President Mel Zelaya," Obama said in a statement released Sunday.

"I call on all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Any existing tensions and disputes must be resolved peacefully through dialogue free from any outside interference," he said.

The Organisation of American States (OAS) issued a resolution condemning the coup in Honduras and announced the dispatch of an OAS diplomatic mission to Tegucigalpa.