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WRAPUP 3-Ousted Zelaya on Honduras border, criticizes U.S.

(For full coverage of Honduras, click on [nN28343997])

* Zelaya back at Honduras border for second day

* Zelaya critical of Clinton, Chavez doubts US motives

* Curfew called in border area, scattered protesters (Adds tension with U.S., Chavez comments, details)

By Sean Mattson and Esteban Israel

LAS MANOS, Honduras , July 25 (Reuters) - Defying U.S. criticism, ousted President Manuel Zelaya returned for a second day to Honduras’ land border to try to put pressure on the coup leaders who threw him out of the country last month.

In a move that risked alienating his most powerful ally in his bid to return to power, Zelaya also said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is not adequately informed about Honduras’ “repressive regime”.

Clinton criticized Zelaya as “reckless” when he came to this town on the Honduran border with Nicaragua on Friday and took a few steps on Honduran soil as police and soldiers with orders to arrest him stood just yards away .

He returned on Saturday and insisted he would not give up his fight to regain power, although he showed little appetite for a confrontation with security forces, saying he had held back from entering Honduras to avoid provoking a massacre.

“You know that if I get close and they want to arrest me, people will defend me and there will be a massacre,” he told reporters, sitting on the hood of a white jeep.

The United States, the United Nations and Latin American presidents have roundly condemned Zelaya’s forced removal from power on June 28 and are demanding he be reinstated.

U.S. President Barack Obama has cut $16.5 million in military aid to Honduras and threatened to slash economic aid.

But he has yet to take measures directly against the coup leaders, and there are tensions between Washington and Zelaya, a close ally of Venezuela’s anti-American and socialist president, Hugo Chavez.

Zelaya has asked Obama to take tougher measures against the de facto government, and he said on Saturday that Clinton was not fully aware of its repressive policies.

“I think she has to be given the correct information so that she comes to see what is happening in Honduras and her words are to complain about the coup leaders, not the heroic people that are resisting and accompanying me so that things return to normal,” he said.

The crisis has put Obama in a difficult position. He does not want to continue a tradition of U.S. support for rightist coups in Latin America, but is uncomfortable with Zelaya’s own democratic credentials and some Republicans in Congress say he has already done too much for the ousted leftist.


Zelaya’s enemies say he was acting illegally in trying to extend presidential term limits and that his removal was authorized by Honduran laws. De facto leader Roberto Micheletti has resisted international pressure to back down and insists Zelaya will be arrested if he returns.

Zelaya, a timber magnate known for his trademark cowboy hat, angered the conservative ruling elite by allying himself with Chavez and his plans for constitutional reforms raised fears that he would try to extend his rule. The Supreme Court ordered his arrest and Congress backed his ouster.

Micheletti seems to believe he can resist international pressure until elections in November and the world will accept the new order when a next president takes office in January.

Chavez said on Saturday that Obama would not stand by Zelaya. “What the government of the United States and its allies want is simply for the coup leaders to consolidate their position and be recognized, if not by law, then de facto.”

Micheletti’s ability to hold out depends largely on Washington, which as the biggest trading partner could cripple the economy of one of Latin America’s poorest nations if it were to block trade with the coffee and textile exporter.

Zelaya is expected in Washington on Tuesday, but it was not clear if he would meet with Clinton.

Honduran police have imposed a curfew near the border with Nicaragua to prevent Zelaya’s supporters from gathering there. About 160 people were being held at various checkpoints but will be released later on Saturday, a police official said.

In the town of Danli, around 20 miles (35 km) from the border, a small group of Zelaya supporters including Zelaya’s wife were blocked from proceeding to the border.

“We will stay as long as it takes, they can’t keep repressing the people,” his wife Xiomara Castro told Reuters.

Armando Flores, 46, who worked in construction in New York before employment dried up and he returned home, sounded more resigned: “We are realistic. They have the weapons and they have the power, what can we do?”

Security forces used tear gas on Friday to disperse several hundred Zelaya supporters who tried to reach the border.

The corpse of a young man was found in El Paraiso, near the border with Nicaragua, but it was not clear how he died or if there was any connection to protests in the area on Friday. (Additional reporting by Marco Aquino, Edgar Garrido and Ivan Castro; Writing by Claudia Parsons; Editing by Kieran Murray)