Honduran forces break up protest at Brazil embassy

Honduran security forces clashed on Tuesday with thousands of supporters of ousted President Manuel Zelaya outside Brazil's embassy, where he took refuge after slipping back into the country aiming to retake power.

Several hundred troops and police, some firing tear gas, cleared away rock-throwing demonstrators from the embassy. Thirty people were injured before security forces took control of the area and settled in for what might be a long standoff.

Leftist Zelaya sneaked back into Honduras on Monday, ending almost three months of exile after he was toppled in a coup and bringing the world's attention to his cause again.

"The coup regime is defying the world," Zelaya told a Honduran radio station. "The international community wants a negotiated peaceful settlement but the answer has been violence and repression against the people,"

Brazil called for an urgent meeting of the U.N. Security Council about Honduras, saying it is concerned "with the safety of President Zelaya and with the security and the physical integrity of the Brazilian embassy premises and personnel."

The United States urged calm in the poor Central American country.

Honduras' pro-coup government wants to arrest Zelaya, a close ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and charge him with corruption and trying to change the constitution.

Security forces blasted the embassy for 15 minutes with a high-pitched sound from a speaker perched in a truck but Honduras' de facto leader, Roberto Micheletti, said he would stop short of ordering the storming of the embassy.

"We will do absolutely nothing to confront another brotherly nation," Micheletti told Reuters [nN2248544]. "We want them to understand that they should give him political asylum or turn him over to Honduran authorities to be tried."

Hundreds of police blocked entrances to the streets around the embassy and electricity in the building was intermittently cut off. Small protests broke out in half a dozen districts of the capital and police fired tear gas at demonstrators.

The United States, the European Union and the Organization of American States have called for dialogue to return the Central American country to democratic rule.

But Micheletti, a bitter rival of Zelaya who was named president by Congress on the day of the coup, said the leftist had first to hand himself over to legal authorities before any talks. He said Zelaya could stay holed up in the embassy for five to 10 years.

The de facto leader rejected calls for a negotiated settlement that would allow Zelaya to return with limited powers ahead of a scheduled presidential election in November.

"Zelaya will never return to be president of this country," he said.


The streets of Tegucigalpa were mostly empty with public transportation, schools and shops closed down due to a daytime curfew aimed at stifling protests.

"Because of the curfew no one can go out, there's no school, there's no work. If you are caught on the street they take you to jail," said Karen Agustia, 32, who works at a food company.

Additional reporting by Anahi Rama in Tegucigalpa, Deborah Charles in Washington, Walter Brandimarte in New York and Mica Rosenberg in Mexico City; Writing by Alistair Bell