Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Hillary Clinton Pleads Case for Coup Leader in Honduras

New York Times

LIMA, Peru — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pleaded Monday with Latin American countries to welcome Honduras back into their circle, a year after the country’s left-leaning president was ousted in a coup that has left a residue of bitterness throughout the region.

Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Nicaragua and other nations refuse to recognize the new Honduran leader, Porfirio Lobo, who was elected after lengthy wrangling between the United States and the coup leaders failed to restore President Manuel Zelaya to power. He had been bundled out of the country in his pajamas last June, and spent months trying to reclaim his job.

Addressing a meeting of the Organization of American States here, Mrs. Clinton noted that the United States had condemned Mr. Zelaya’s ouster. But she said, “We saw the free and fair election of President Lobo,” and she praised him for setting up a truth commission to investigate the coup.

“Now it’s time for the hemisphere as a whole to move forward and welcome Honduras back into the inter-American community,” Mrs. Clinton said, after several foreign ministers inveighed against Mr. Lobo’s government, which they said had violated human rights.

Honduras was expelled from the O.A.S. in the wake of the coup, with the support of the United States. Continued tensions over the coup suffused the discussions here, though Nicaragua failed to get Honduras added to the formal agenda of the meeting.

For her part, Mrs. Clinton was trying to avoid a replay of last year’s O.A.S. meeting, which fell into an even more acrimonious debate over whether to readmit Cuba. She was also trying to marshal support for the Obama administration’s push for sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.

“I fully expect Iran to pull some stunt in the next couple of days because they know sanctions are on the way,” she said Sunday. “I think we’ll see something coming up in the next 24 to 48 hours where Iran says, ‘Wait a minute, wait a minute, look what we’re going to do now.’ ”

In Lima, Mrs. Clinton briefly met with Brazil’s deputy foreign minister, Antônio de Aguiar Patriota, to discuss both Iran and Honduras. Brazil, which tried with Turkey to broker a deal with Iran over enrichment of its uranium, is expected to vote against an Iran resolution.

In a meeting on Monday morning with Peru’s president, Alan García, Mrs. Clinton praised the country’s support for nonproliferation, which she said sent “a message of unity to Iran and North Korea that their actions pose a threat to the peace and stability of the world community.”

Mrs. Clinton faced an awkward moment when Mr. García praised her for her advocacy of women’s rights, then abruptly walked out of the room, leaving her alone in front of a pair of microphones with a bemused smile on her face. Mrs. Clinton explained that the president was running late for his next meeting, and then quickly beat her own retreat from his palace.

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