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Honduras' De Facto Ruler Says Zelaya Can Stay in Embassy for '5 to 10 Years'

Honduras' de facto ruler does not plan to confront Brazil, but says the country's ousted president can stay at the embassy for "5 to 10 years," Reuters reported Tuesday.

Deposed President Manuel Zelaya's surprise return to Honduras to reclaim his seat had him holed up in the Brazilian Embassy Tuesday, saying he feared for his life as heavily armed soldiers marched outside and helicopters buzzed overhead.

Water, electricity and phone lines had been cut, and neighboring buildings taken over by the military.

"We know we are in danger," Zelaya said during interviews with various media outlets. "We are ready to risk everything, to sacrifice."

Honduran Government Extends Curfew Again

Zelaya, forced out of his country at gunpoint, triumphantly popped up in the capital on Monday, telling captivated supporters that after three months of international exile and a secretive 15-hour cross country journey, he was ready to lead again.

Interim President Roberto Micheletti's response was terse: initially he said Zelaya was lying about being there, and then — after Zelaya appeared on national television — Micheletti pressed Brazil to hand Zelaya over so he could be arrested under a warrant issued by the Supreme Court charging treason and abuse of authority.

Some officials suggested even the embassy would be no haven.

"The inviolability of a diplomatic mission does not imply the protection of delinquents or fugitives from justice," said Micheletti's foreign ministry adviser, Mario Fortinthe.

Micheletti repeated his insistence that had never been a coup — just a "constitutional succession" ordered by the courts and approved by Congress.

"Coups do not allow freedom of assembly," he wrote in a column published Tuesday in the Washington Post. "They do not guarantee freedom of the press, much less a respect for human rights. In Honduras, these freedoms remain intact and vibrant."

Meanwhile Micheletti closed airports and borders, and baton-wielding police fired tear gas to chase thousands of demonstrators away from the embassy where Zelaya's supporters had gathered.

Some gas canisters fell inside the walls of the Brazilian embassy, where Zelaya, his wife, some of their children, Cabinet members, journalists, about 70 people in all, kept a tense watch on police and soldiers who patrolled from neighboring rooftops. Some napped on couches, others curled up on the floor beneath travel posters of Brazilian beaches.

Zelaya said he had no plans to leave and he repeatedly asked to speak with Micheletti.

Those negotiations have yet to begin, and with his embassy the current hotspot for the Honduran crisis, Brazil's president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva called Zelaya and pressed him not to do anything that might provoke an invasion of the diplomatic mission.

Embassy staff were told to stay home, and embassy charge d'affaires Francisco Catunda Resende said water, phone and electricity services had been cut, leaving the mission with a diesel powered generator, according to a spokesman with Brazil's Foreign Ministry who did not give his name in keeping with policy.

Diplomats around the world, from the European Union to the U.S. State Department, were urging calm while repeating their recognition of Zelaya as Honduras' legitimate president.

The secretary general of the Organization of American States, who is trying to convince Micheletti to step down and return Zelaya to power, said he was "very concerned" that the situation could turn violent.

"It's a hostile situation and I hope the de facto government fulfills its obligation to respect this diplomatic seat," said Jose Miguel Insulza.

Zelaya apparently timed his surprise arrival in Honduras' capital to coincide with world leaders gathering this week at the United Nations in New York, putting renewed international pressure on the interim government, which has already shrugged aside sharp foreign aid cuts and diplomatic denunciations since the coup.

A 26-hour curfew imposed Monday afternoon left the closed businesses and schools, leaving the capital's streets nearly deserted. All the nation's international airports and border posts were closed and roadblocks set up to keep Zelaya supporters from massing for protests.

Zelaya loyalists ignored the decree and surrounded the embassy, dancing and cheering and using their cell phones to light up the streets after electricity was cut off on the block housing the embassy Monday night.

Police cleared them away with clubs, tear gas, jets of water and deafening music early Tuesday.

Zelaya was removed in June after he repeatedly ignored court orders to drop plans for a referendum on reforming the constitution. His opponents feared he wanted to end a constitutional ban on re-election — a charge Zelaya denied.

The Supreme Court ordered his arrest, and the Honduran Congress, alarmed by his increasingly close alliance with leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Cuba, backed the army as it forced him into exile in Costa Rica.

For the past three months Zelaya has traveled to around the region to lobby for support from political leaders, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

U.S.-backed talks moderated by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias stalled over the interim government's refusal to accept Zelaya's reinstatement to the presidency. That proposed power-sharing agreement would limit his powers and prohibit him from attempting to revise the constitution.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.