Clinton Calls De Facto Honduran Leader To Demand President's Return

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called de factor Honduran leader Roberto Micheletto to warn him about the consequences for his country if it does not permit ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya to return to power, the State Department said Monday.

Clinton called Micheletti on Sunday from New Delhi, where she is meeting with Indian officials on climate change.

It is the first call from Clinton since she met with Zelaya in Washington two weeks ago following his removal from power for trying to hold a referendum in defiance of an order by the nation's Supreme Court. The United States supports Zelaya's return to office.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley described Clinton's conversation with Micheletti as "tough," and said that Clinton warned him the longterm relationship between the U.S. and Honduras could suffer. She explicitly mentioned U.S. aid, Crowley said.

The European Union already has suspended $90 million in aid to Honduras.

Talks between Zelaya and Micheletti have been suspended for 72 hours, U.S. officials said, downplaying reports that negotiations to return Zelaya to his home country have irrevocably collapsed.

More On This...

The talks broke down amid disagreement over whether Zelaya can return to his position but with limited powers, or whether he would have to stand trial for his alleged crimes.

Though the talks, mediated by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, are on hold, the United States is still pressing for a diplomatic resolution, Crowley told reporters.

He said the United States is backing new Honduran elections as soon as possible and wants Zelaya to be reinstated to complete the six months remaining in his term.

However, Zelaya has been warned by U.S. officials not to return to Honduras before talks have reached a resolution. He remains in Nicaragua.

Crowley said despite reports the two sides are miles apart, they are still trying to find a resolution.

"Through the weekend, you did have movement from the positions that both sides took, coming into the negotiation, which is not to say that we are at a successful conclusion yet," he said.