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Ousted Honduran president issues talks ultimatum

in.reuters.com

Ousted Honduran president issues talks ultimatum

TEGUCIGALPA/MANAGUA- july 14- Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya warned on Monday he will deem mediation talks over the country’s political crisis “failed” unless he is reinstated at the next meeting, likely this weekend.

Mediator Costa Rica said on Monday it may call Honduras’ interim government and Zelaya’s negotiators within eight days for fresh talks. One of Zelaya’s negotiators, Milton Jimenez, said the next round would be held on Saturday or Sunday.

The talks began last week and stopped after two days, making scant progress.

Zelaya insists on his reinstatement after the June 28 coup. But Roberto Micheletti, installed as interim president by Honduras’ Congress, is adamant Zelaya cannot return to power under any circumstances because was seeking to illegally extend his rule through the lifting of presidential term limits.

No foreign government has recognized Micheletti as president. The United States, the Organization of American States and the U.N. General Assembly have called for Zelaya to be restored to office after the coup in the impoverished Central American country.

“We are giving an ultimatum to the coup regime, that at the latest in the next meeting this week in San Jose, Costa Rica, they should carry out the expressed (OAS and U.N.) resolutions (to reinstate me),” Zelaya told a news conference in Managua.

“If not, then this mediation will be considered to have failed,” he added, wearing his trademark white cowboy hat.

DIPLOMATIC TEST

A spokesman for Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987, confirmed the mediator intended to issue a fresh invitation to the two sides “within a period of eight days” but could not give a precise date.Time was on the interim government’s side, said Mark Ruhl, a Honduras specialist at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania.

“The longer this goes on, the better it is for Micheletti. The downside is if the United States decides to squeeze the government financially. But if you were Micheletti, why would you leave?” he told Reuters.

Honduras, which exports bananas, coffee and textiles, has a long history of coups, returning to democracy only in the 1980s after 20 years of mainly military rule.

The Honduras crisis is a diplomatic test for U.S. President Barack Obama after he vowed a fresh start with Latin America, where Washington has in the past been accused of backing coups and dictatorships that served its interests. Obama has condemned the Honduras coup as illegal.

Micheletti on Sunday held out the possibility of an amnesty for Zelaya if he returns home quietly and faces justice. It appeared to be the interim government’s first conciliatory offer to help defuse the worst crisis in Central America since the Cold War.

Zelaya dismissed the gesture.

“I don’t accept either trials or amnesty. I won’t accept a pardon from anyone because I have not sinned,” he told Reuters in Managua.

Outside the public prosecutor’s office in Tegucigalpa on Monday, protesters held up banners that read “No amnesty for Mel’s government,” referring to Zelaya by his nickname.

CALL FOR SANCTIONS

Hondurans are striving to return to their normal lives after the coup, which caused a jump in prices for basic goods.

“The people are accepting (the new government) because of their daily needs. You have to eat,” said Encarnacion Borjas, a Zelaya supporter who oversees maintenance at a church in Tegucigalpa, as he watched a game of street soccer.

Zelaya, now traveling the Americas to shore up his support, ran afoul of his political base and ruling elites in the conservative country by allying himself with Venezuela’s leftist president, Hugo Chavez. Zelaya took office in 2006 and had been due to leave power next year.

Chavez has called the mediation talks in Costa Rica “dead before they started”. Zelaya has vowed to return to Honduras.

Zelaya’s foreign minister, Patricia Rodas, echoing a demand from Chavez, called on Washington to apply “effective” economic and political sanctions against the interim government, such as blocking financial transfers and reserves, and suspending U.S. visas for its members.

Micheletti on Sunday blamed Chavez for events in Honduras and for the death of a protester in clashes at Tegucigalpa’s airport a week ago when troops blocked Zelaya’s bid to return in a plane provided by the Venezuelan leader.

Micheletti has also said he would be prepared to step down as part of an eventual solution and that elections scheduled for November could be held earlier.

“If they work out a deal for Zelaya to come back, it will be just to finish his term. He won’t return in triumph. He would be the ultimate lame duck,” Ruhl said.

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Obama heads to Moscow for ‘reset’ summit

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Russian Matryoshka dolls decorated with images of U.S. President Barack Obama (R), his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev (C) and Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin are seen on display at a market in Moscow July 3, 2009.

Obama heads to Moscow for ‘reset’ summit

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama left for Moscow on Sunday promising a far-reaching effort to “reset” U.S.-Russian relations that hit a post-Cold War low under the Bush administration.

Obama is looking for progress on the outlines of a new nuclear arms pact and improved cooperation in the Afghan war effort, but deep divisions remain over U.S. missile defense, NATO expansion and the 2008 Russia-Georgia war.

Traveling to Moscow for the first time since taking office, he hopes to keep building pragmatic ties with President Dmitry Medvedev but is likely to have a more strained introduction to Vladimir Putin, who still dominates Russian politics.

Obama set the stage with a pre-trip assessment that Putin still had “one foot” planted in the Cold War. Putin, who hand-picked Medvedev as his successor last year and has stayed on as prime minister, rejected Obama’s criticism and insisted it was U.S. policy that needed to be updated.

Despite the testy exchange, the two sides have settled on the old issue of arms control as the cornerstone for forging a less rancorous relationship between Washington and Moscow.

“I seek to reset relations with Russia because I believe that Americans and Russians have many common interests, interests that our governments recently have not pursued as actively as we could have,” Obama told the Russian opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta ahead of the summit.

He left Washington on Sunday evening and was due to hold talks with Medvedev at the Kremlin on Monday afternoon.

On the eve of Obama’s visit, negotiators were still bargaining over how far the presidents will go in setting down markers for further cuts in nuclear arsenals. Such markers are supposed to form the basis for a treaty to be signed by December when an existing pact known as START-1 expires.

Medvedev said in an interview published on Sunday the United States must compromise on plans to deploy an anti-missile system in Europe that Russia fiercely opposes.

The summit will also yield the Kremlin’s permission to ship U.S. weapons supplies across Russian territory en route to U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan, sources on both sides said.

The transit deal will open up a crucial corridor for the United States as it steps up its fight against a resurgent Taliban in line with Obama’s new Afghanistan strategy.

DIVISIONS

Progress on these fronts will be touted as evidence that both sides want to put their rocky relations of recent years on a better path.

It will be harder to bridge the gap on other issues.

Obama acknowledged in the Novaya Gazeta interview “Russian sensitivities” over the proposed anti-missile shield. But he made clear he would not accept any effort by Moscow to link arms control talks to missile defense.

Moscow, which sees proposed missile-defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic as a threat to its security, has insisted in recent weeks that the two issues are intertwined.

Putin hit back, saying Russians “are standing firmly on both feet and always look to the future”.

In an indication of the strained atmosphere, Russia’s Kremlin-controlled main television channels — the chief source of news for most Russians — have played down Obama’s visit.

Sunday evening’s main Channel One news show did not mention Obama in its main headlines and opened with a lengthy report on Medvedev exhorting Russians to save energy. Rival channel Vesti began its show talking about the death of a folk singer.

“This is being played as essentially a low-key visit that shows the American leadership’s respect for the Russian leadership,” Dmitry Trenin, head of the Moscow Carnegie Centre think-tank, said. “This is not some star coming to town.”

The Other Russia and Solidarity opposition movements announced plans for a protest rally in central Moscow on Monday evening to coincide with Obama’s visit.

(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason, Guy Faulconbridge and Amie Ferris-Rotman)

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Leaders warn time running out for climate deal

Thailand UN Climate Talks

Leaders warn time running out for climate deal

BANGKOK – U.N. climate talks kicked off Monday in Bangkok with leaders calling for delegates to break the deadlock over a global warming deal and warning failure to act would leave future generations fighting for survival.

Negotiations on a new U.N. climate pact have been bogged down by a broad unwillingness to commit to firm emissions targets, and a refusal by developing countries to sign a deal until the West guarantees tens of billions of dollars in financial assistance — something rich countries have so far refused to do.

“Time is not just pressing. It has almost run out,” U.N. climate chief Yvo de Boer said, with a clock nearby showing there were 70 days until world leaders are scheduled to meet in Copenhagen to finalize a pact. “If we don’t realize Plan A, the future will hold us to account,” he said.

Some at the conference pointed to the tropical storm that tore through the Philippines over the weekend, leaving scores dead, as a glimpse into the kind of turbulent weather that could be unleashed by global warming.

“We are asking the negotiators to look outside these walls. They should realize that it is the people’s lives at stake,” said Dinah Fuentesfina, a Philippine activist from the Global Campaign for Climate Action Asia who was in Manila when the storm struck Saturday.

Connie Hedegaard, the Danish minister for climate and energy whose country will host the talks in December, told delegates the world was watching and urged them to build on the momentum that came out of last week’s U.N. climate summit where 100 world leaders pledged their support for an agreement.

At the New York summit, President Barack Obama and China’s president_ whose countries are the world’s two biggest emitters, each accounting for about 20 percent of greenhouse gas pollution — both vowed tough measures to combat climate change.

President Hu Jintao said China would generate 15 percent of its energy from renewable sources within a decade, and for the first time pledged to reduce the rate by which its carbon emissions rise. He did not give specific targets.

Japan‘s new prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, whose nation generates more than 4 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases, pledged to seek a 25 percent cut in emissions from 1990 levels by 2020.

The United States has offered much lower targets so far, with a House of Representatives bill proposing to reduce emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels — or about 4 percent below 1990 levels — by 2020. The Senate has yet to take up the climate bill.

“We have a tremendous task before us,” Hedegaard said. “You and I face great expectations from citizens around the world. They want action on climate change and they want it now. If we fail to act, we will face dire consequences.”

The two weeks of U.N. climate talks in the Thai capital, the second to last meeting before Copenhagen, are drawing some 1,500 delegates from 180 countries who will be tasked with boiling down a 200-page draft agreement to something more manageable. They also will be working to close the gap between rich and poor countries.

Most countries agree that temperature increases should be limited to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) above preindustrial levels of about 150 years ago — a level believed necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. But so far, there is no consensus on how to do that.

Most industrialized nations have offered emissions cuts of 15 percent to 23 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, falling short of the 25 percent to 40 percent cuts scientists and activists say are needed to keep temperature increases below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius).

De Boer said negotiations were far behind where they should be, but he remained confident a deal would be reached in Copenhagen.

Artur Runge-Metzger, who heads the European Union delegation, called for more concrete proposals from China, India and other developing countries as well as commitment of funds from all parties.

“The glue that is going to keep this all together is finance,” he said. “We need to see real convergence between parties (in Bangkok) before the end-game in Copenhagen.”

David Victor, a political scientist who has written about climate negotiations since 1990, said it is unlikely a comprehensive treaty can be completed this year.

“The world economic recession has made most governments acutely aware of policies that could affect economic growth,” he said. “And the range of issues on the table in Copenhagen is so large and complex and the time available to sort them out is very short.”

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