Obama denounces Honduras coup as 'not legal'

Saying the U.S. does "not want to go back to a dark past," President Obama said Monday that the military ouster of President Manuel Zelaya was "not legal."

Meeting with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe in the Oval Office, Obama said the two leaders had discussed the coup and "all of us have great concerns."

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The president said the ouster should not be used as "a means of political transition," calling it a "terrible precedent" for the region.

"We do not want to go back to a dark past," he said. "We always want to stand with democracy."

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday that the U.S. believes the situation in Honduras "has evolved into a coup."

Zelaya was arrested and forced into exile on Sunday after pressing ahead with a constitutional referendum that would have allowed for his re-election. The referendum had been judged illegal by Honduras' highest court and was opposed widely through political and military circles. Zelaya had fired the chief of the country's armed forces, Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, when he refused to help with the referendum.

Soldiers took away Zelaya, still in his pajamas, from the presidential palace Sunday morning and put him on a plane to San Jose, Costa Rica. An interim president, Roberto Micheletti, was selected by the country's Congress on Sunday.  Micheletti says that no coup occurred and Zelaya was legally removed by the courts and Congress for violating Honduras' constitution.

Obama responded to the event Sunday in a statement. "I am deeply concerned by reports coming out of Honduras regarding the detention and expulsion of President Mel Zelaya," Obama said. "As the Organization of American States did on Friday, I call on all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Any existing tensions and disputes must be resolved peacefully through dialogue free from any outside interference."

Clinton said in a Sunday statement that Zelaya's expulsion "should be condemned by all."