Clinton to meet Zelaya, U.S. mulls cutting off aid

WASHINGTON Tue Sep 1, 2009 5:25pm EDT

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives at a town hall meeting with Congolese university students in the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital Kinshasa, August 10, 2009. REUTERS/Joe Bavier

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives at a town hall meeting with Congolese university students in the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital Kinshasa, August 10, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Joe Bavier

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton plans to meet ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya on Thursday, the State Department said as Washington debates formally cutting off aid to the Honduran government.

Despite worldwide condemnation of the June 28 coup against Zelaya, who was whisked into exile in a military plane while still in his pajamas, Roberto Micheletti's interim government has said it will not be pressured into stepping down.

Micheletti so far has rejected proposals put forward by mediator Costa Rican President Oscar Arias that would have allowed Zelaya to return to power before November elections in the poor Central American nation.

Clinton's Washington talks with Zelaya, a wealthy landowner who moved toward the left after taking office, take place against the backdrop of an extended U.S. government debate on whether he was deposed by the military.

Under U.S. law, if it were determined that the military had removed him, the U.S. government would be obligated to terminate aid to the government in question.

The U.S. government already has suspended about $18 million in U.S. aid to the Honduran government that would be affected if Clinton makes the determination.

U.S. officials said the Millenium Challenge Corporation, a U.S. government corporation that gives funds to poor countries with a record of sound policies, has about $135 million in aid for Honduras that would have to be scrutinized and could be in jeopardy.

(Editing by Will Dunham)

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