AFP - Honduras could slip into "civil war" after talks in Costa Rica's capital collapsed Sunday over ousted President Manuel Zelaya's demand to return to power, mediating Costa Rican President Oscar Arias warned.
Zelaya's delegation in San Jose ended discussions after Honduras's de facto government rejected as "unacceptable" a proposal by Arias that Zelaya go back as president at the head of a "reconciliation" government and early elections be held.
Zelaya's top aide at the talks, Rixi Moncada, said: "We announce that this dialogue with the commission from the de facto regime... is finished."
Arias, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, pleaded for talks to resume after a 72-hour break.
There was no indication that appeal was heeded, though sources close to the negotiations said both sides might meet again late Wednesday.
Neither Zelaya nor the head of the de facto government, Roberto Micheletti, were in Costa Rica for the talks. Each man has declared himself the only legitimate president of Honduras.
If the negotiations have definitively foundered, Arias said he feared "civil war and a bloodbath."
But Honduras's de facto government dismissed that.
Its deputy foreign minister, Martha Lorena Alvarado, accused Arias of "taking us towards a situation of near-panic" by using those words.
She welcomed the call for 72 hours' reflection, but ruled out allowing Zelaya's return as president, citing Honduras's laws.
But Zelaya's supporters in Honduras said late Sunday they would intensify their daily protests and road blocks.
The leader of the National Front Against the Coup d'Etat, Berta Caceres, told AFP a strike would be held Thursday and Friday to press for the ousted leader's reinstatement.
She added that her group opposed Arias's plan for a reconciliation government that included what she termed "the putschists."
The secretary general of the Organization of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza, also said his body was going to pressure Honduras's de facto regime to make it recognize "this is a coup that failed."
The OAS would hold a meeting Monday to analyze the situation, Insulza said.
Zelaya has vowed to reenter Honduras with or without agreement in the failed talks.
He tried to fly back into Honduras on July 5 on a plane borrowed from his strongest ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, but had to abort the landing when Honduran military vehicles parked on the runway.
Rumors suggested he might next try to cross the border from Nicaragua, where he has been based since his forced exile.
Micheletti's government has promised to arrest Zelaya if he does reappear in Honduras and prosecute him for treason and 17 other charges.
Many of Honduras's lawmakers, judges and military leaders believe Zelaya triggered the crisis by organizing a June 28 referendum, without congressional approval, on whether to change the constitution.
They fear the wealthy rancher, who swerved sharply left after being elected to office in 2005, was aiming to lift the one-term cap on presidents to prolong his mandate.
Such a move has been adopted by several leftwing leaders in Latin America, all following Chavez's suit.
President Evo Morales of Bolivia and Rafael Correa this year changed rules to enable them to stay in power.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, who is hosting Zelaya in his exile, chose Sunday -- the 30th anniversary of his leftist Sandinista revolution -- to declare he, too, would seek to change his country's constitution to seek reelection.
The United States has been watching developments in Honduras with concern.
"We're looking for a peaceful resolution... These players at the table have it in their power to come to that and we're hoping that they'll do everything they can to reach that resolution," US State Department spokesman Rob McInturff said late Sunday.
"In the end this has got to be a solution from Hondurans for Honduras," he said.
Washington has backed the OAS's demand that Zelaya be returned to power, and frozen military aid to Honduras's new regime. But it has also warned Zelaya against rash moves that might jeopardize dialogue.
It and other capitals were worried that the undemocratic power shift in Honduras, coupled with increasingly power-monopolizing governments in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, could herald a new era of coups in Latin America after a period of relative stability.