Ousted President Zelaya sceptical ahead of crisis talks

Representatives of ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya and de facto leader Roberto Micheletti are meeting Tuesday to discuss the country’s political crisis. But from his refuge in the Brazilian embassy, Zelaya said he was sceptical.


AFP -Ousted President Manuel Zelaya said Monday he doubted the military-supported government of Roberto Micheletti would let him return to power, as both sides worked toward an agreement to end the months-long political crisis.

Representatives of Zelaya and the de facto regime are to meet Tuesday to thrash out the final details of an Organization of American States-brokered deal that has snagged on the thorniest point -- Zelaya's reinstatement.

"It will be a key day of talks to know if this will be resolved, but I am skeptical," Zelaya told AFP in a telephone call from the Brazilian embassy, where he sought refuge after his surprise return to the country September 21.

"I believe that the putschist regime will continue refusing to implement the resolution of the OAS and the international community," Zelaya said, referring to a measure calling for his return to power.

Although the reinstatement issue is likely to be broached Tuesday, Zelaya's chief negotiator Victor Meza believes the final outcome likely will be delayed until Thursday, the deadline the ousted president imposed on the negotiations.

Meza said negotiators had already signed off on five of the eight points of the San Jose accord, hammered out by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias.

On Tuesday, Meza added, "we expect two more will be approved, to get the agreement 90 percent signed, before we begin discussing the final point Wednesday and Thursday."

Zelaya was kicked out of the country at gunpoint in his pajamas in a June 28 military coup, but snuck back into Honduras nearly three months later to face off against the regime that ousted him from power.

"I am always open to dialogue, but I have no trust in the putschists. It will be a slap in the face against the international community if they refuse to restore what they usurped," he said.

And if talks fail?

"We will continue fighting in the streets and the crisis will deepen," Zelaya said.

Zelaya said he believes Micheletti's negotiators are playing for time so they can hold elections on November 29, a vote many countries have already said they would not recognize if held by the interim regime.

"As long as there is no agreement on restoring President Zelaya, all the other points on which we have made ground are meaningless," said Juan Barahona, a Zelaya negotiator.

The five points agreed to so far include the formation of a national unity government, no amnesty for past offenses, Zelaya's giving up the right to call a constitutional assembly, not moving up the November 29 elections and putting the armed forces under the command of the electoral tribunal one month before the vote.

Both sides have said they are not seeking amnesty for crimes allegedly committed during the crisis, a point raised by Arias.

The Micheletti regime has accused Zelaya of 18 crimes, including treason, corruption and abuse of authority.

Regime negotiator Vilma Morales, who blamed "the international community" for causing the crisis, said no single point could take priority.

A high-level OAS delegation left Honduras last week without resolving the impasse, though John Biehl, a veteran Chilean diplomat who stayed behind at the head of an OAS team still in Honduras, remained optimistic.

At the United Nations, Zelaya's foreign minister Patricia Rodas said that if the deposed president is not restored by the October 15 deadline he set then the international community must impose further sanctions on Honduras.

Rodas also demanded that nations show "firmness" in refusing to recognize the interim Honduran regime.

Rodas said the United States, the source of 70 percent of foreign investment in Honduras, is best positioned to pressure the regime.

A rancher known for his trademark white cowboy hat, Zelaya veered to the left after his election and alarmed conservatives by aligning himself with leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. They feared Zelaya was seeking to change the constitution to allow himself to seek reelection.

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