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Honduras rivals discuss Zelaya return post-coup
Tue Oct 13, 2009 8:45pm EDT
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By Frank Jack Daniel
TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Negotiations over the return to power of ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya appeared to make headway on Tuesday but he warned the de facto leaders who replaced him after a military coup were just playing for time.
The standoff is Central America's worst crisis in years and has become a test for U.S. President Barack Obama after he promised better relations with Latin America.
Envoys for the leftist Zelaya, who was toppled and forced into exile by soldiers on June 28 but is now back in the country, and for de facto leader Roberto Micheletti tackled for the first time the issue of Zelaya's future.
"We are optimistic and I hope to finish tomorrow with many possibilities of success," said Victor Mesa, who heads Zelaya's negotiating team.
Micheletti envoy Vilma Morales said the two sides had agreed on 90 percent of a draft plan to end the crisis.
But Zelaya struck a more cautious note, telling Reuters his former friend Micheletti had frequently misled public opinion about his plans. Micheletti has so far refused to consider Zelaya's return to power as an option.
"I simply do not trust him, but there is always hope. God exists and so do miracles," Zelaya said by telephone from the Brazilian embassy where he has been holed up, surrounded by soldiers, since he crept into the country in late September.
Micheletti's government is accused of human rights abuses by Amnesty International and has broken promises to quickly lift curbs on protests and on media loyal to Zelaya.
Zelaya said the talks will continue this week, and that he has written to Obama and Latin American presidents asking for tougher actions against the post-coup leadership.
Trade sanctions are one measure he believes would hurry the downfall of the leadership of the impoverished country.
A small group of protesters calling for Zelaya's return to power gathered outside the hotel in the capital where talks were being held. They were watched by police and soldiers armed with automatic weapons and clubs.
Many countries, including the United States, have threatened not to recognize elections for a new president on November 29 if Micheletti does not first allow Zelaya's return.
Zelaya said elections called by a government that took power in a putsch send the wrong signals about democracy in Latin America. "They'd be authorizing coups d'etat," he said.
Obama has frozen some economic aid to the country, although some Latin American governments have said he needs to do more. Continued...
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