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Other News: President of Honduras Ousted in Coup

June 29, 2009 at 4:10 PM EDT
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In other news, the president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, was ousted in the first coup in Central America since the end of the Cold War, and Iran's top electoral oversight committee reaffirmed the disputed results of the nation's disputed presidential election.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In other news today, the government of Honduras resisted pressure and protests to restore the elected president. On Sunday, the military in the Central American nation ousted Manuel Zelaya. It was the first coup in the region in at least 16 years.

NewsHour correspondent Kwame Holman has our report.

KWAME HOLMAN: Heavily armed soldiers and police clashed with thousands of protestors outside the presidential palace in Tegucigalpa today. They used clubs and tear gas to beat back the crowd.

HONDURAN MAN (through translator): We demand that the entire international community force this de facto government out and return Manuel Zelaya as our president.

KWAME HOLMAN: Last night, the ousted president landed in Managua, Nicaragua, hours after being arrested and forced into exile. He was embraced on the tarmac by other leftist leaders from Latin America, including Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez who loaned him the plane.

Today, Zelaya and Chavez walked into a news conference arm in arm, insisting Zelaya still is the legitimate leader of Honduras.

MANUEL ZELAYA, president of Honduras (through translator): They got rid of me by force. They kidnapped me and forced me out. But even here, I’m still the citizen that the Hondurans chose to run the country for four years. My term is up next year. It doesn’t finish this year.

HUGO CHAVEZ, president of Venezuela (through translator): We demand a demonstration of solidarity with the Honduran people and with President Manuel Zelaya. Venezuela is on its feet. Venezuela is on its feet, our government, our people, our armed forces. But we have to give an unforgettable lesson to this foul Honduran bourgeoisie.

KWAME HOLMAN: In turn, Roberto Micheletti, the newly installed president of Honduras, rejected any outside pressure. He said, “Nobody scares us.”

Lawmakers appointed him on Sunday. They insisted they acted to stop Zelaya from holding an illegal referendum to extend his rule.

But in Washington, Secretary of State Clinton joined in denouncing the coup and said the U.S. was working to return Zelaya to power.

HILLARY CLINTON, secretary of State: We think that the arrest and expulsion of a president is certainly cause for concern that has to be addressed. And it’s not just with respect to whether our aid continues, but whether democracy in Honduras continues.

KWAME HOLMAN: Later, President Obama met with the president of Colombia. He said the Honduran coup was not legal and would set a terrible precedent.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In Iran, the top electoral oversight body today reaffirmed that President Ahmadinejad won the country’s disputed election. The announcement came hours after the Guardian Council held a partial recount of 10 percent of randomly selected ballots.

Officials also released five Iranians employed at the British embassy. They were detained over the weekend. Four others are still being questioned.

U.S. combat forces formally left Baghdad and other Iraqi cities late today and government forces took over. Earlier, Iraqi troops paraded in Baghdad as American officials handed over the former defense ministry.

And in Baquba, policemen and military vehicles marched to celebrate the handover.

In Cairo, Egypt, the overall U.S. commander in the Middle East, General David Petraeus, voiced confidence.

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, commander, U.S. Central Command: Certainly there will be continuing challenges. There are many, many difficult political issues, social issues, governmental, development issues. We feel confident in the Iraqi security forces continuing the process of taking over the security tasks in their own country.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Iraq has been hit by a wave of bombings in recent days. More than 250 Iraqis have been killed in just over a week, and another U.S. soldier was killed on Sunday.

In economic news, rebel attacks on oil sites in Nigeria pushed the price of crude back above $71 a barrel. That boosted energy stocks and Wall Street in general. The Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 91 points to close at 8,529. The Nasdaq rose more than 5 points to close at 1,844.