September 2, 2009 / 1:45 AM / 8 years ago

Clinton to meet Zelaya, US mulls cutting off aid

(Updates with Zelaya comments)

WASHINGTON, Sept 1 (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 de facto government has said it will not be pressured into stepping down.

Micheletti has so far 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.

Zelaya said he trusted the international community would not recognize the election or its winner if he had not been been restored to office before the vote is held.

"How can legitimate, transparent and democratic elections be held?" Zelaya said at a news conference at the Organization of American States, citing political repression of his followers by the de facto government.

While the OAS condemned his ouster and suspended Honduras, some countries in the hemisphere now believe the election of a new government in November might be the best way out of the Honduras stalemate.

Zelaya hopes the U.S. government will step up pressure for his reinstatement with stiffer sanctions.

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 Millennium Challenge Corporation, a U.S. government corporation that gives funds to poor countries with a record of sound policies, had about $135 million in aid for Honduras that would have to be scrutinized and could be in jeopardy. (Reporting by Arshad Mohammed and Anthony Boadle; Editing by Peter Cooney)




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