US Senator Lugar urges Zelaya to be 'constructive'

WASHINGTON, Sept 9 (Reuters) - A senior U.S. senator said on Wednesday that he urged ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya to be "constructive" in finding a solution to the political crisis in the Central American country.

Senator Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a speech that Zelaya had taken some "provocative" steps that made the situation worse, both before and after he was ousted June 28 by the Honduran military.

"As I mentioned to President Zelaya in our meeting last week, a solution to Honduras' impasse should be sought through constructive means," Lugar said in a speech to be delivered on Thursday to a conference on hemispheric trade and investment in Washington. An advance copy was obtained by Reuters.

Lugar met Zelaya while he was in Washington to see Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The State Department announced last Thursday that it was cutting more than $30 million in aid to Honduras to pressure the de facto Honduran government to step down and let Zelaya return to power.

Lugar is one of the Senate's most respected voices on foreign policy. But while some other Republicans have blasted the Obama administration for its handling of the Honduran crisis, saying Obama was trying to force restoration of a leftist government, Lugar said he was encouraged by Obama's early condemnation of the coup.

"But, I also believe that President Zelaya took steps, before and after his removal, that were provocative and helped contribute to deep divisions in Honduran society," Lugar said in the text of his speech to the Andean Development Corporation's conference.

Zelaya's critics accuse him of pushing for presidential re-election to extend his mandate, following the lead of Venezuela's socialist President Hugo Chavez.

Roberto Micheletti, who was named president by the Honduran Congress just hours after Zelaya was removed by soldiers, has vowed to resist international pressure to reinstate Zelaya.

Lugar said he supported the mediation efforts of Costa Rican President Oscar Arias. These efforts have so far failed to achieve a solution to the worst political crisis in Central America in nearly 20 years. (Reporting by Susan Cornwell, editing by Philip Barbara)