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No chance of ousted president returning, interim leaders say

The Honduran interim government has defied international pressure and vowed there was "no chance at all" of ousted president Manuel Zelaya returning to office.

World leaders, from U.S. President Barack Obama to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, have told the new rulers of the Central American country to restore Mr. Zelaya, a leftist who was toppled by the army on Sunday and sent into exile after a dispute over presidential-term limits.

The Organization of American States gave Honduras an ultimatum early yesterday to allow Mr. Zelaya back into office by this weekend, or face suspension. The president of the Inter-American Development Bank, Luis Alberto Moreno, said that the lender would not be providing any new credits to Honduras after the recent coup there.

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But the interim government's response indicated there was little immediate hope of a negotiated solution to the crisis in Honduras, an impoverished coffee and textile producer.

Enrique Ortez, interim foreign minister, said Mr. Zelaya would be arrested if he came home, and said the interim authorities were sure that Mr. Zelaya had been removed in a legal process.

"We are not negotiating national sovereignty or the presidency," he said. "There is no chance at all," of Mr. Zelaya coming back to power.

The crisis in Honduras has spiralled into the worst political turmoil in Central America since the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989, posing a test both for regional diplomacy and for Mr. Obama's ability to improve the United States' battered standing in Latin America.

In further signs of isolation of the interim government, the Inter-American Development Bank said it was pausing all new loans to Honduras until democracy is restored, while Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said Europe will not talk to the new rulers if they attempt to get in touch.

"[The interim government]is going to try, but it's better they don't try, because they will not get an answer from us, and, moreover, the instruction that embassies from European Union countries have is to not attend any event, make contact, have any communication with the provisional authorities - that is our position," he told Spanish state radio.

But a spokesman for the Swedish government said EU states had not reached a common position on what diplomats would do.

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The United States will wait until at least July 6 to decide whether to cut off aid to Honduras, a senior Obama administration official said.

Mr. Zelaya gave up a plan to return home on Thursday, accompanied by a group of foreign leaders, to serve out his term. He said he now did not expect to return before the weekend, which a senior Obama administration official called a wise move that gives the OAS the chance to find a solution.

Although there was no announced OAS mission to Honduras, diplomatic sources in Washington said that OAS chief Jose Miguel Insulza would seek channels of communication with the interim government through respected figures not involved in the coup, such as church leaders.

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