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Honduras to meet OAS but tells Zelaya "don't come"
Fri Jul 3, 2009 2:08am EDT
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By Mica Rosenberg
TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - An interim government in Honduras warned ousted President Manuel Zelaya to stay away but indicated it could be more conciliatory in talks on Friday with the Organization of American States over the country's crisis.
Roberto Micheletti, head of a caretaker leadership set up after an army coup, said he welcomed the chance to talk with OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza, who was expected to arrive in Honduras early on Friday with an ultimatum to reinstate Zelaya or be suspended from the regional body.
Micheletti said he could be open to holding an early presidential election and even a plebiscite on bringing Zelaya back to serve the last few months of his term, if that would calm the global storm over his ouster.
Insulza was cautious however, telling reporters late on Thursday he doubted he could defuse the crisis in one visit.
"I cannot say I am confident. I will do everything I can but I think it is very hard to turn things around in a couple of days," he told reporters in Guyana.
The OAS, which groups most countries in the Americas including the United States, is a mostly symbolic organization that promotes peace and justice but has limited powers.
The new Honduran administration has so far rebuffed any attempt to bring back Zelaya, who was ousted in a dawn coup in a dispute over presidential term limits that has become Central America's biggest political crisis since the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989.
The hitherto bloodless overthrow in the impoverished coffee and textile exporting country of 7 million people has created a test for regional diplomacy and for U.S. commitment to shoring up democracy in Latin America.
"For the peace and calm of the country I would prefer he (Zelaya) does not come in," Micheletti told Honduran radio on Thursday. "I do not want even one drop of blood spilled in this country," he said, adding that Venezuela's firebrand socialist President Hugo Chavez was steering Zelaya's moves.
Earlier, he told reporters he would be "in total agreement" with bringing forward a November 29 presidential election.
"I have no objection if it would be a way of resolving these problems," he said. A referendum on reinstating Zelaya to serve the rest of his term was also possible, he said, although it would be "difficult" to hold one immediately.
The crisis has split Hondurans, with supporters of the coup holding rallies and pro-Zelaya demonstrators mounting rowdy protests, burning tires and building barricades, in recent days. Several dozen pro-Zelaya activists have been arrested.
A mustachioed logging magnate, Zelaya grew close to Chavez and pulled Honduras to the left since taking power in 2006, winning him support among the country's poor but making him unpopular with the wealthy conservative elite.
Polls show Zelaya's popularity had dropped to 30 percent in recent months. The army, courts and Congress all opposed his quest to lift presidential term limits. Continued...
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