U.S. Southern Command chills ties with Honduran military

The Pentagon's Southern Command Wednesday ordered U.S. troops in Honduras to ''minimize contact'' with the Central American nation's armed forces in light of the coup d'etat that ousted President Manuel Zelaya.

No troops were recalled, and U.S. forces at an air base at Soto Cano, 60 miles from the capital, were authorized to assist in emergency rescue missions, said Southcom spokesman Jose Ruiz.

But Southcom's new commander, Air Force Gen. Douglas ''Skeet'' Fraser, would sign off on a case-by-case basis on other uses for the air base and runway. There the Pentagon rotates 600 or so troops to assist in regional counter-drug or humanitarian missions.

Already approved for Wednesday was the flight of a single U.S. helicopter from Soto Cano to Cornito, Nicaragua, where it would stay for the next two weeks to assist with a medical mission of the hospital ship USNS Comfort.

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