GOP senators press administration not to back Zelaya

Seventeen Senate Republicans on Wednesday sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urging the Obama administration to reverse its rhetoric and support the removal of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya.

The GOP senators disagree with the administration’s use of the term “coup” for the events in Honduras, saying that Zelaya was removed properly. The senators also urge Clinton to meet with a delegation of Honduran officials currently in Washington with whom they met earlier Wednesday.

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Zelaya was removed from power last week after moving to hold a non-binding referendum to change the country’s constitution to allow him to remain in office. Obama and Clinton have reacted strongly, but the Republicans say Zelaya was corrupt and that the U.S. should not seek to return him to power.

“It appears that the Honduran government operated under constitutional authority and that the removal of Mr. Zelaya from power was legal and legitimate,” the senators wrote to Clinton.

Four of the letter’s signers held a press conference Wednesday to press their case, with Sen. Mel Martinez (Fla.) leading the comments to charge that Zelaya was “moving in a direction that was contrary to the country’s own constitution and rules and laws.”

Martinez said the Honduran officials with whom he met Wednesday want the U.S. to “stand with the democratic institutions of Honduras.”

The letter to Clinton was signed by Republicans Jim DeMint (S.C.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), John Cornyn (Texas), David Vitter (La.), Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), John Ensign (Nev.), Jim Bunning (Ky.), Minority Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Roger Wicker (Miss.), James Inhofe (Okla.), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), Mike Johanns (Neb.), Jim Risch (Idaho), Pat Roberts (Kan.), Kit Bond (Mo.) and John Thune (S.D.).