In 2005, the US pledged 215 million dollars to Honduras to help stimulate agriculture and infrastructure. Washington already suspended some 18 million dollars in aid to Honduras after the coup of 28 June in which Roberto Micheletti seized power. If Mr Zelaya is not allowed to return to Honduras by Mr Micheletti’s interim government and should Ms Clinton make the determination a military coup took place, then the country risks forfeiting the remaining 135 million dollars of the stimulus package.

But Mr Micheletti’s interim government said it would not be pressured into stepping down. Central American foreign ministers meeting in Costa Rica on Thursday agreed not to recognise the result of a presidential election set for November unless Mr Zelaya is first restored to power.