Honduras in diplomatic snub to U.S. over Bolivia

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Honduras, a former U.S. ally in Central America now run by a leftist government, told a U.S. envoy not to present his credentials as ambassador on Friday in a diplomatic snub in support of Bolivia.

President Manuel Zelaya said, however, that he did not want to upset his country’s relations with Washington.

Bolivia and anti-U.S. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez are in a fight with Washington over what they see as U.S. support for violent protests against Bolivian President Evo Morales.

Zelaya, who has moved Honduras closer to Chavez, was due to receive a new U.S. ambassador on Friday in a ceremony at which the envoy would present a letter with his diplomatic credentials. But Zelaya temporarily put off the event in support of Bolivia, a government source said.

“The government decided to temporarily suspend the reception of the new ambassador’s letter of credentials in solidarity with Bolivian President Evo Morales,” the source said. The snub means envoy Hugo Llorens is not officially U.S. ambassador.

The United States imposed sanctions on aides to Venezuela’s Chavez on Friday in retaliation for his expulsion of the U.S. ambassador, escalating a crisis that raises the specter of a possible oil supply cutoff.

Zelaya later told reporters his intention was to show solidarity with Morales and he would receive the new U.S. ambassador’s credentials at a later date.

“In no way do we want to provoke a problem with the United States,” he said. “In no way are we breaking relations.”

Bolivia and the United States expelled their respective ambassadors earlier this week after Morales accused Washington of supporting the opposition in the Andean country.

Violent anti-government protests have killed eight people in Bolivia, where rightist governors have rebelled against the popular president, demanding autonomy and rejecting his plans to overhaul the constitution and break up ranches to give land to poor Indians.

Reporting by Gustavo Palencia; editing by Todd Eastham