UN condemns Honduran military coup

The United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday condemned the ouster of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya and called for his immediate return to office.

Crowd of 5,000 cheers interim president in Honduras

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, right, raises the arm of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, who embraces Cuba's President Raul Castro at the end of the Central American Integration System, or SICA, summit in Managua on Monday. ((Miguel Alvarez/Associated Press))

The United Nations General Assembly condemned the ouster of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya and called Tuesday for his immediate return to office.

The world body adopted a resolution by acclamation calling on all 192 UN member states not to recognize any government in Honduras other than Zelaya's.

Zelaya, who addressed the General Assembly in New York on Tuesday afternoon after the resolution was adopted, thanked the UN for its "historic" action.

He said the resolution "expresses the indignation of the people of Honduras and people worldwide who continue to struggle for the only principles that can prevail in accordance with the United Nations charter."

Zelaya was expelled from Honduras in a military coup over the weekend, but governments around the world have rallied to support the leader and demand his reinstatement.  

The leftist Honduran billionaire-turned-politician has said he may try to return home, accompanied by the head of the Organization of American States, as early as Thursday.

Attorney General Luis Alberto Rubi, however, said Zelaya would be arrested "as soon as he sets foot on Honduran soil" and faces at least 20 years in prison for treason, abuse of authority and other charges.

"We have already issued an international arrest warrant to capture the former president anywhere in the world," he said.

With no international support, but a significant following at home, Roberto Micheletti — the man named interim president by Honduras's Congress — called thousands of flag-waving people into the streets in Tegucigalpa Tuesday.

Supporters of Honduras' interim President Roberto Micheletti shout as they hold Honduras national flags during a rally in Tegucigalpa on Tuesday. ((Oswaldo Rivas/Reuters))

Soldiers fenced off the area around the presidential palace, where security forces had used tear gas and water cannons Monday to disperse Zelaya supporters, injuring and arresting dozens.

"We're heading toward the elections in November," Micheletti, flanked by soldiers in camouflage, told some 5,000 cheering supporters in white and blue, the colors of the Honduran flag. "We will hand over the presidential sash to whomever the people choose."

Micheletti promised to serve only until the end of Zelaya's term in January. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Enrique Ortez told CNN en Espanol that Zelaya had been letting drug traffickers ship U.S.-bound cocaine from Venezuela through Honduras. Ortez said the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration was aware of Zelaya's ties to organized crime.

Emergency OAS meeting

Also Tuesday, the OAS called an emergency meeting for later in the day to consider suspending Honduras under an agreement meant to prevent the sort of coups that for generations made Latin America a spawning ground of military dictatorships.

Meanwhile, the replacement government insisted that no coup had taken place because the Supreme Court had ordered the army into action and Congress had immediately named Micheletti to serve out the final seven months of Zelaya's four-year term.

Zelaya was expelled from Honduras just hours before a rogue referendum he had called, defying the courts and the country's Congress.

Opponents feared Zelaya would use the referendum to remain in power after his term ends on Jan. 27, 2010. The Honduran constitution limits presidents to a single four-year term.

With files from The Associated Press