U.S. Treads Cautiously In Honduras Dispute Honduras' deposed President Manuel Zelaya plans to return home to contest his ouster, with the support of the Organization of American States, the United Nations and the United States. Washington, however, has found itself among strange bedfellows on this issue.

U.S. Treads Cautiously In Honduras Dispute

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block. There's growing pressure on Honduras to let the ousted president return. The Organization of American States issued an ultimatum today. It said Honduras has three days to restore Manuel Zelaya to power. As NPR's Michele Kelemen reports, the U.S. has been supporting these goals, although the Obama administration has approached the issue in a cautious way.

MICHELE KELEMEN: On the one hand, President Obama has spoken out firmly against Zelaya's ouster, trying to put to rest any suspicions that the U.S. had anything to do with it. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs made clear today that the U.S. is supporting efforts by the Organization of American States to get Zelaya back to Honduras and back in power.

Mr. ROBERT GIBBS (White House Press Secretary): There's an inter-American charter that establishes rights, rules and responsibilities as it relates to Democratic governments. That's obviously something that's been violated, and the OAS, with help of the United States, has reacted to that.

KELEMEN: The Obama administration has found itself with strange bedfellows in this case, working alongside Venezuela and Nicaragua, to try to reverse the coup against a leftist Latin-American leader. A Pentagon spokesman says the U.S. is suspending some joint military activities with Honduras, but the U.S. has not recalled its ambassador or cut off aid.

Michael Shifter, an analyst with the Inter-American Dialogue, says the Obama administration is trying to take a stand without punishing Hondurans.

Mr. MICHAEL SHIFTER (Analyst, Inter-American Dialogue): They're looking for a middle ground. The statements have been clear, but I think they've been reluctant to punish the current government. So I think that's what they're trying to do. It is cautious, but I think that's characteristic of the Obama administration. And certainly the reaction in Latin America, as far as I can tell, has been very positive.

KELEMEN: Shifter, reached by phone in Peru today, says the Obama administration has worked hard to deal with this crisis in a multilateral way through institutions like the Organization of American States and the U.N. General Assembly. He says there's still some complicated diplomacy involved in restoring Manuel Zelaya to power in Honduras.

Mr. SHIFTER: However one feels about him and however much blame he may have had himself in bringing on this crisis, there is a principle involved. But there has to be some sort of compromise. He can't go back and continue to do what he was doing, which is really pushing ahead in a sort of a desperate way to try to cling to power.

At the United Nations yesterday, the ousted president denied he would try to go for another term. Speaking through an interpreter, he said he just wants to finish out this term, which ends in January, and then he would take his straw hat and boots back to his farm.

President MANUEL ZELAYA (Honduras): (Through translator) If I was offered the possibility of remaining in power, I would not do it. I am going to fulfill my four years. I'm going to fight to have the four years respected, because it's part of our law.

KELEMEN: Zelaya is in Panama now, and planning his return to Honduras this week with several Latin-American leaders in tow. Authorities in Honduras say they will arrest him. But he obviously feels he's got enough backing, even from the U.S.,. Again, he spoke through an interpreter.

Pres. ZELAYA: (Through translator) The United States has changed a great deal, and Europe has changed. They have been imperial powers, but I have listened to President Obama. It is not only that he condemns the events, but he has demanded the restoration of the president.

Zelaya met last evening with Assistant Secretary of State Tom Shannon, and a White House adviser on Latin America, Dan Restrepo. A State Department spokesman said the ousted leader expressed his appreciation that the U.S. is working with others in the region to try to get him home.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

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