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Proposal aims to mend Honduras

July 19, 2009|Tracy Wilkinson

MEXICO CITY — Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, seeking a solution to the Honduran coup crisis, on Saturday proposed reinstating ousted Honduran leader Manuel Zelaya as president and holding early elections as part of a power-sharing plan for a new government.

Zelaya said he accepted Arias' plan in principle, but the de facto government in Honduras continued to insist that Zelaya not be allowed to return to the presidency. Zelaya has threatened to make his way back into Honduras as early as today if a deal to restore him to power was not reached in Saturday's negotiations.

Arias, the mediator of the negotiations at his home in the Costa Rican capital, San Jose, urged patience. More talks may take place today.

"The use of force caused this problem, and it will never be the solution," he said.

Zelaya was overthrown in a military coup and deported on June 28. The Honduran Congress then swore in its own leader, Roberto Micheletti, as president.

Arias on Saturday was presiding over a second round of talks at the behest of the U.S. and other regional powers. He proposed a seven-point plan that would reinstate Zelaya until the end of his term in January and move ahead by one month presidential and parliamentary elections now scheduled for late November.

The plan called for a new "government of national reconciliation" that would include members of major political parties, many of which backed the coup, and amnesty for political crimes would be granted to all participants.

Zelaya would have to forgo any effort to change the constitution, the issue that his opponents used as reason to stage the coup.

"If God is very great, I think we can arrive at a definitive agreement," Arias said before Saturday's meeting. Later, Arias, who won the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end Central America's wars, urged the two sides to accept his proposals "as soon as possible" because of the possibility of violence the longer the crisis wears on.

Zelaya, speaking by telephone to Honduras' Radio Globo, said he would accept Arias' proposal of a reconciliation government. A day earlier, however, Zelaya said in Managua, Nicaragua, that he would not accept co-government with coup plotters.

Micheletti has said that he is willing to step down only if Zelaya is not allowed to resume office. His spokesman in Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital, was quoted by news agencies Saturday rejecting Arias' proposal.

As rhetoric and tensions escalated in recent days, Zelaya suggested Hondurans were within their right to rebel against what he called an illegitimate government.

He said he would sneak back into Honduras by land, sea or air. When he tried to fly into Tegucigalpa on July 5, the military blocked the runway with vehicles and drove back thousands of supporters who arrived at the airport to greet him. The army was reportedly on high alert again Saturday.

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wilkinson@latimes.com

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