Honduran rivals weigh proposal for Zelaya's return

Thursday, October 15, 2009
Riot police stand guard near the Brazilian embassy where ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya has been hold up for almost three weeks in Tegucigalpa, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2009. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras -- Negotiators reached a tentative agreement Wednesday on whether to return ousted President Manuel Zelaya to office, but both the deposed Honduran leader and the coup-installed president responded to the plan only by saying that talks would go on.

It was unclear exactly what the proposed agreement entailed. Victor Meza, a negotiator for Zelaya, said representatives had reached consensus on the issue of Zelaya's reinstatement, but he declined to give details until both Zelaya and interim President Roberto Micheletti had approved the plan.

Micheletti's office released a statement later saying only that no definitive agreement had yet been reached and that talks would continue today.

Zelaya, who had been holed up at the Brazilian Embassy since sneaking back into the country from his forced exile last month, said at a news conference that the final text is still being worked out. He told a radio station later that he had little confidence in Micheletti's commitment to reaching an agreement.

"I don't believe in what the coup leaders say. I think that when it comes to the key point of rejecting the coup -- which means my reinstatement to office -- Micheletti will give another slap to the world because he will oppose it," Zelaya told Radio Globo, a station that was closed by the interim government two weeks ago but has been broadcasting on the Internet.

Beatriz Valles, the foreign minister of the ousted government, said talks had been postponed until today at Micheletti's request.

Jose Miguel Insulza, the secretary-general of the Organization of American States, said he was hopeful for a breakthrough in the crisis, which started with soldiers flew Zelaya into exile at gunpoint in a dispute over changing the Honduran constitution.

"I don't want to be excessively optimistic ... but I think there have been significant advances that allow us to hope for a Honduran solution to a Honduran crisis," Insulza told the OAS General Assembly in Washington.

Zelaya's representatives have repeatedly made clear they will not accept any agreement that does not include his return to serve out his presidential term, which ends in January. Zelaya has warned that if he is not returned to office by Oct. 15, he would seek to postpone Nov. 29 presidential elections, which were scheduled before his ouster.

Micheletti has been under intense international pressure to restore Zelaya, who was toppled in a dispute over his efforts to change the Honduran constitution. For weeks, the interim government shrugged off the suspension of U.S. aid and other sanctions, but the pressure intensified with Zelaya's surprise return to the country last month.

Top level diplomats from the U.S. and other countries flew to Honduras last week and pushed the two sides to the negotiating table -- making clear that Zelaya's reinstatement was the only way to end the Central American country's diplomatic isolation.

Negotiators have said they have agreed on all other points in the pact, first proposed by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias.

The deal would include a truth commission to investigate the events leading up to the coup and a committee to ensure that both sides live up to the agreement. It also requires Zelaya to give up his efforts to change the Honduran constitution, an initiative critics said he intended to use to extend his term in office by abolishing a ban on presidential re-election. Zelaya denies that was his plan. Soldiers flew him into exile after he ignored a Supreme Court order to cancel a referendum to ask Hondurans if they wanted an assembly to rewrite the constitution.

The Honduran Congress then voted to install Micheletti as president.

Mayra Mejia, another Zelaya representative, said both sides had decided to renounce amnesty from prosecution. The Arias plan had included amnesty for both the coup perpetrators and Zelaya, who face abuses of power charges.

"Amnesty was never requested. Neither President Zelaya or the other side considers it necessary," Mejia said.

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