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Mediator proposes path out of Honduras showdown

 Honduras' ousted President Manuel Zelaya gestures during a news conference in Managua, Friday, July 17, 2009. Allies of ousted President Zelaya say U...
 Honduras' ousted President Manuel Zelaya answers questions during a news conference in Managua, Friday, July 17, 2009. Allies of ousted President Zel...
 A supporter of ousted Honduras' President Manuel Zelaya shouts slogans outside the site of talks to resolve the leadership crisis in Honduras in San ...
 Costa Rica's President Oscar Arias speaks to the press before the beginning of the second round of negotiations to find a solution to the political c...
 Supporters of ousted Honduras' President Manuel Zelaya protest outside the site of talks to resolve the leadership crisis in Honduras in San Jose, Sa...

Nicaragua Honduras

Honduras' ousted President Manuel Zelaya gestures during a news conference in Managua, Friday, July 17, 2009. Allies of ousted President Zelaya say U...

APTOPIX Nicaragua Honduras

Honduras' ousted President Manuel Zelaya answers questions during a news conference in Managua, Friday, July 17, 2009. Allies of ousted President Zel...

Costa Rica Honduras Coup

A supporter of ousted Honduras' President Manuel Zelaya shouts slogans outside the site of talks to resolve the leadership crisis in Honduras in San ...

Costa Rica Honduras Coup

Costa Rica's President Oscar Arias speaks to the press before the beginning of the second round of negotiations to find a solution to the political c...

Costa Rica Honduras Coup

Supporters of ousted Honduras' President Manuel Zelaya protest outside the site of talks to resolve the leadership crisis in Honduras in San Jose, Sa...

The chief negotiator in Honduran crisis talks on Saturday proposed reinstating ousted President Manuel Zelaya at the head of a national reconciliation government, early elections and a general amnesty as a way out of a deadlock over a coup.
Many of the proposals made by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias at U.S.-backed talks have already have been rejected by one side or the other in the dispute over Honduras' June 28 coup, which has developed into a key test for democracy in Latin America and for U.S. diplomacy in the region.
Arias, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for helping end Central America's wars, said that under his seven-point plan Zelaya would cede control of the armed forces to an electoral court a month before elections, which would be moved forward a month to late October. The amnesty would apply to all political crimes committed before and after the coup.
Under the proposal, Zelaya would agree to not hold a referendum on retooling the constitution _ the proposal the sparked the coup _ and an international commission would be formed to monitor compliance to the accord. The national reconciliation government led by Zelaya would include representatives from Honduras' main political parties.
The talks in Costa Rica's capital are taking place under extreme pressure after Zelaya issued an ultimatum that if he is not returned to the presidency by the end of Saturday he will declare the talks a failure and will return home in secret to set up a parallel government. The interim government of Roberto Micheletti has vowed to arrest him on arrival.
Delegates began arriving in San Jose early Saturday for the talks, which have the backing of the Obama administration, the Organization of American States and much of the world community, though some leftist leaders have denounced them as a trap for Zelaya.
On Friday, Zelaya appeared to reject any form of power-sharing government, saying it would unjustly reward coup leaders. Micheletti has also rejected returning Zelaya to the presidency.
The ousted Honduran leader said the midnight deadline for his return to the presidency is not negotiable.
"If at that time, there is no resolution to that end, I will consider the negotiations in Costa Rica a failure," Zelaya said at a news conference Friday night at the Honduran embassy in Nicaragua. "I am going back to Honduras, but I am not going to give you the date, hour or place, or say if I'm going to enter through land, air or sea."
Zelaya's wife, Xiomara Castro, implied the return was imminent, telling demonstrators in the Honduran capital on Saturday that "President Zelaya will be here in a few hours despite the bayonets."
Zelaya did not say what steps he would take once on Honduran soil. But earlier this week, he said Hondurans have a constitutional right to rebel against an illegitimate government.
The Honduran military thwarted his attempt to fly home July 5 by using vehicles to block the runway, preventing his plane from landing in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa.
Zelaya's supporters have staged near daily protests demanding his return, and about 3,000 blocked traffic on one of the main boulevards in Tegucigalpa Saturday chanting slogans in favor of the ousted leader.
"Nothing will come out of the negotiations and people know that," said Cesar Silva, who helped organize the protest, adding that he expected Zelaya to return to Honduras after midnight Saturday.
Arias had appeared optimistic about a resolution on Friday, saying both camps had "softened, and I think we are going to find more flexibility." In the first round of talks the two sides agreed only to meet again.
About 300 Zelaya supporters chanted slogans outside Arias' house as the meeting started.
"These negotiations have been put together to legitimize the coup government and all they are looking for is an exit that doesn't include their punishment or rinstating Zelaya," said John Vega, a Costa Rican student.
Honduras' Supreme Court issued an arrest warrant for Zelaya before the coup, ruling his effort to hold a referendum on whether to form a constitutional assembly was illegal. The military decided to send Zelaya into exile instead _ a move that military lawyers themselves have called illegal but necessary.
Many Hondurans viewed the proposed referendum as an attempt by Zelaya to push for a socialist-leaning government similar to the one his ally Hugo Chavez has established in Venezuela.
In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley called Friday for all nations to support the talks and he urged them to avoid "any action that would potentially increase the risk of violence either in Honduras or in surrounding countries."
That appeared to be an allusion to remarks by Chavez, who has warned of possible civil war in Honduras.
Micheletti has said Zelaya might try to sneak in by crossing Nicaragua's jungle-cloaked border with Honduras.
Micheletti told Colombia's RCN Radio that his government was open to dialogue but argued that Zelaya committed crimes against "the economy, the citizenry and against the constitution" and could not be allowed to return to power.
Micheletti was sworn in to replace Zelaya after the coup.
Supreme Court President Jorge Rivera, who under the constitution would be next in line for the presidency if Micheletti resigned, said an amnesty for Zelaya could be considered as part of the negotiations. But if Zelaya enters the country without amnesty, he should be immediately arrested, Rivera said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Zelaya's deadline for the coup leaders to back down falls at the start of the 30th anniversary of Nicaragua's July 19, 1979, Sandinista revolution that toppled dictator Anastasio Somoza.
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Associated Press writers Diego Mendez in San Jose, Costa Rica, and Mark Stevenson in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, contributed to this story.


Updated : 2021-10-21 15:38 GMT+08:00