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Honduran rulers insist Zelaya cannot be president


Honduran rulers insist Zelaya cannot be president

The de facto Honduran government insisted on Thursday that it would not allow ousted President Manuel Zelaya to return to office, dampening hopes of a deal to end a political crisis after last month’s coup.

Roberto Micheletti, named president by Congress after Zelaya was toppled in the June 28 coup, said he was open to dialogue to resolve the crisis but would not accept Zelaya back in power, as mediators are asking.

“I’ve clearly said it before and I say it again, if there is a solution where I have to step down I will do it willingly, but I cannot allow Zelaya to return as president,” Micheletti told reporters.

Rafael Pineda, who as minister of the presidency is No. 2 in the de facto government, told Reuters the administration was “firm, unchangeable” against Zelaya’s return to power.

In neighboring Nicaragua, the exiled Zelaya asked a U.S. delegation to step up measures against the coup leaders and vowed to take his case to the International Criminal Court.

With mediator Costa Rica’s efforts making little progress, Micheletti invited Enrique Iglesias, former Inter-American Development Bank head, to come to Honduras as a special envoy to try and rekindle negotiations.

The coup leaders are under pressure from Washington to reinstate Zelaya, and a source close to the de facto government said Micheletti might consider letting Zelaya back if there were assurances he would not try to derail democracy.

But Micheletti said on Thursday that if Zelaya came back it would be to face trial. Zelaya incited profound criticism while in office by allying with Venezuela’s firebrand President Hugo Chavez and pushing to allow presidential re-election.

“If he wants to retake control of the government, not under any circumstance,” Micheletti said.

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Honduran power brokers, priests push talk plans

CORRECTION Honduras Coup

Honduran power brokers, priests push talk plans

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – Catholic Church leaders are weighing in on Honduras’ coup stalemate with a proposal to jump-start negotiations, part of a growing movement by crisis-weary Hondurans to resolve the crisis and end the country’s crippling isolation.

The coup-installed government, which has shrugged off international condemnation, now is coming under increasing pressure to negotiate from Honduran political, civic and business leaders who had supported the ouster of left-leaning President Manuel Zelaya.

Several compromise proposals have surfaced as Honduras struggles to emerge from 10 tumultuous days that saw deposed President Manuel Zelaya sneak back into the country and mount his boldest challenge yet to the interim government, which responded by imposing curfews, suspending civil liberties, banning demonstrations and closing opposition media.

Bishop Juan Jose Pineda said Wednesday his plan would broaden talks to include civic groups that have led street protests both in support of and against Zelaya, with the process guided by one Honduran and one foreign mediator.

Pineda said the talks would revolve around a compromise proposed by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, which would provide amnesty for the coup participants and reinstate Zelaya to the presidency with limited powers to serve out his term that runs into January.

“We believe we have to look for a Honduran solution,” Pineda said during a presentation of the plan on Channel 10 television.

The bishop has acted as a go-between for Zelaya and interim President Roberto Micheletti, who has refused to meet face-to-face with the ousted president.

John Biehl, special adviser to the Organization of American States, said Wednesday he sensed some movement toward talks.

“The moment has arrived for tempers to cool and reason to reign, and that’s when errors will start being corrected,” Biehl said. “I have found a strong willingness for dialogue,” adding he had heard of proposals to return Zelaya to office briefly.

Some of the business and political leaders who backed the coup, under intense U.S. pressure to sway the government toward restoring Zelaya, are now open to considering the possibility of returning him to office with limited powers.

Porfirio Lobo, a top conservative contender in November’s presidential election, announced that Congress would be open to passing reforms needed to make an accord work.

“If we have to reform some laws, I don’t think Congress is going to be an obstacle,” added Lobo, whose party is the second largest legislative bloc, with 55 seats in the 128-seat Congress.

As part of the attempt to return to normality, Micheletti’s government announced Wednesday it was dropping the nighttime curfew in force since Zelaya secretly entered Honduras on Sept. 21, took refuge at the Brazilian Embassy and called on his followers to protest.

But Micheletti dragged his heels on lifting an emergency decree that curbed civil liberties despite demands from the political elite — including Congress and the country’s electoral court — that he revoke it. Micheletti suggested it could remain in effect for up to two more days.

Micheletti also largely dismissed a compromise promoted by an influential business leader, who suggested bringing in 3,000 U.N. peacekeepers or troops from conservative-led countries to enforce any agreement to restore Zelaya temporarily to office and ensure he does not overstep limits on his authority.

Micheletti said that part of the plan was unworkable, because it would violate the constitution.

“This involves things we cannot do, because our constitution does not permit it,” he said, referring to the presence of foreign troops or U.N. peacekeepers. “But of course we will take into consideration the points he has expressed in his proposal, in his dream to bring peace to Hondurans.”

Adolfo Facusse, president of the National Association of Industries, which vocally supported Zelaya’s ouster, said he discussed parts of his plan with Micheletti, including a proposal to make the interim president a congressman-for-life.

Micheletti also said he saw no need to sit down with the man he replaced as president after the army hustled Zelaya out of the country June 28.

Brazil has expressed concern about the security of its embassy, where about 60 Zelaya supporters are holed up with the ousted president. Honduran troops and police have surrounded the building.

The Honduran government says it will not raid the embassy, but Micheletti says Zelaya will be arrested as soon as he leaves it.

“That’s a decision for him to make, if he wants to stay there seven years, five years,” Micheletti said.

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