US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said yesterday the US believes the unrest in Honduras "has evolved into a coup" but is not demanding that deposed President Manuel Zelaya be restored to office.
She also said the military coup has not triggered an automatic cut-off of US aid to Honduras. Mrs Clinton said that a delegation from the Organisation of American States will be heading to Honduras as early as today "to begin working with the parties" on restoration of constitutional order.
She stopped short of saying the Obama administration would demand the return to power of the deposed president, who was forcibly removed from the country on Sunday morning by the Honduran military.
A reporter asked whether the administration would insist that Mr Zelaya be restored to power.
"We haven't laid out any demands that we're insisting on, because we're working with others on behalf of our ultimate objectives, which are shared broadly," Mrs Clinton replied.
"So 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."
Mrs Clinton cited a "fast-moving set of circumstances" in Honduras that require close monitoring. "Our immediate priority is to restore full democratic and constitutional order in that country," Mrs Clinton said at her first news conference since breaking her right elbow in a fall on June 17.
"As we move forward, all parties have a responsibility to address the underlying problems that led to the events in a way that enhances democracy and the rule of law in Honduras," she added.
"So we are withholding any formal legal determination," she said, and in the coup's aftermath, "we have a lot of work to do to try to help the Hondurans get back on the democratic path that they've been on for a number of years now." She said the US is looking at its aid programme for the country and considering the implications of the forced removal of Mr Zelaya for continued US assistance.
Meanwhile, UN General Assembly President Miguel D'Escoto said yesterday that he has invited Mr Zelaya to address the assembly "as soon as possible."
The Honduran military seized Mr Zelaya and flew him to Costa Rica on Sunday amid a dispute over his bid to change the Central American country's constitution to allow presidents to serve more than a single four-year term in office.
"I have sent a letter to the president of Honduras . . . to come to the United Nations and address the General Assembly as soon as possible and give us an updated report on events in his country," Mr D'Escoto said.
Mr D'Escoto, a former foreign minister in the leftist Sandinista government of Nicaragua in the 1980s, was speaking at an assembly session he convened to discuss the coup in Honduras.
Mr D'Escoto said the purpose of the session was to "consider ways to ensure the peaceful restoration of the legitimate government of Mr Zelaya in the hours and days ahead."
He urged the assembly to "denounce the perpetrators [of the coup] with such unanimity that no military-backed regime in Honduras will be able to withstand the criticism and rejection of the world."
Honduras' UN ambassador Jorge Arturo Reina denounced the coup and told the assembly he supported Mr Zelaya.
"Today my country has lost its democratic system of government," he said. Mr Reina urged the world's nations not to accept any "illegitimate government" that took Mr Zelaya's place.
The Honduran congress has named Roberto Micheletti as interim president until elections due in November.