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No deal as rival leaders abandon talks


Latest update : 2009-07-11

Deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya and interim leader Roberto Micheletti abandoned talks without reaching a deal on Thursday.

AFP - Honduras's rival leaders abandoned mediated talks Thursday without a deal, as Costa Rican President Oscar Arias appealed for more time to resolve the crisis sparked by a military-backed coup last month.
Interim leader Roberto Micheletti left San Jose without meeting his rival, President Manuel Zelaya, after talks aimed at finding middle ground between the new president, who insists he will stay in power, and the elected president, who is urging his reinstatement.
First Zelaya, then Micheletti spoke separately to Arias, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, at his home in the capital San Jose. But the pair did not speak face-to-face as expected.
"I feel satisfied because a sincere, clear dialogue has been initiated, but still, the positions are very different and certainly these things... take time, they require patience," said Arias.
"This could possibly take more time than imagined."
On his return to Tegucigalpa, Micheletti said he was ready to return to talks "if necessary," after earlier saying he was going back to Honduras "totally satisfied."
"If I am invited by President Arias, I will return with great pleasure," Micheletti said, after leaving a working team of four negotiators behind in San Jose. Meetings between the two delegations began shortly after his departure.
On Friday, the exiled leader was expected to travel to Guatemala and the Dominican Republic to drum up support, meeting with presidents Alvaro Colom and Leonel Fernandez under the auspices of the Central American Integration System (SICA).
The impoverished Central American country of seven million inhabitants has been roiled by protests since June 28, when Zelaya was abducted by the army and forcibly deported.
"We have made the first step," Zelaya said after his meeting. "President Arias heard my position and that of the union and political representatives with me, which is the immediate restoration of the elected president."
The United States has suspended military ties with Tegucigalpa and is warning it could sever 200 million dollars in aid. The World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank have frozen credit lines.
Zelaya's left-wing allies have also made life uncomfortable for Micheletti. Venezuela has suspended its oil deliveries to Honduras, while Nicaragua denied Micheletti permission to fly through its airspace for the Costa Rica meeting.
Amid the tension, there was speculation that a door was open to a possible solution.
The Honduran Supreme Court said ahead of the talks that if the congress granted Zelaya amnesty, he could return to Honduras without fearing an arrest warrant for treason issued against him.
Some Honduran lawmakers said they were open to an amnesty.
"It would be an acceptable formula to bring peace to the country," said Christian Democrat lawmaker Anibal Solis.
But most Honduran business leaders opposed any return of the beleaguered leader.
"There has been an irreversible democratic transition in Honduras, and we're going to have to stick together to create jobs in the teeth of the global crisis and if there is international isolation," Adolfo Facusse, an employers' federation chief, told AFP.
A wealthy rancher who veered strongly left since becoming president in January 2006, Zelaya raised the ire of lawmakers, judges and his country's military by seeking to rewrite the constitution for a referendum without required congressional approval.
Despite his recent denials, Zelaya was suspected of trying to lift the one-term presidential term limit to seek re-election when his current four-year mandate ends in January next year.
Any deal seeing Zelaya restored as president in Honduras would likely require him to drop those plans.
In Washington, the head of the Organization of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza, said he believed there was "ample margin" for a compromise to be reached.
He stressed that the cornerstone of any agreement should be Honduras's de facto government allowing Zelaya to return.

Date created : 2009-07-10