Diplomats Reach for Solution to Honduras Coup

By: Will Weissert AP Email
By: Will Weissert AP Email

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) - International diplomats who have
threatened and isolated Honduras' coup-spawned government said
Thursday they would travel to Honduras in an attempt to persuade
the interim leaders to restore the president they ousted.

It was a difficult balance for the Washington-based Organization of American States, which has taken the lead in international efforts to reverse the military overthrow of President Manuel Zelaya: It needs to engage the interim government to get Zelaya back, but can't be seen as compromising with a government it doesn't recognize.

OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza was planning to travel to Honduras on Friday, possibly accompanied by foreign ministers from the region, his deputy Albert Ramdin told The Associated Press.

"We are not going to negotiate," he said in an interview on the sidelines of a Caribbean summit in Guyana.

"We want to see a return of President Zelaya on safe andunconditional circumstances back to the country to resume his position," he said. "After that, they can discuss through dialogue whatever differences there are domestically."

Insulza has already made phone calls to former Honduran presidents and religious leaders in Honduras, he said. Talks with interim President Roberto Micheletti himself were apparently barred because the organization fears it would grant legitimacy to his military-backed government.

The OAS has given Hondurans until Saturday to restore Zelaya or
be suspended from the organization, and Zelaya has delayed his
planned return until after that deadline. Nations around the world
have promised to shun Micheletti, who was sworn in after the Sunday
coup.

Neighboring countries have imposed trade blockades, major lenders have cut aid, the Obama administration has halted joint military operations and Sweden announced Thursday that all European Union ambassadors have abandoned the Honduran capital.

That has left few ways to negotiate a solution. Micheletti backers have vowed to reject foreign pressure, saying the army acted legally - on orders of Congress and the Supreme Court - when it raided Zelaya's house amid the rattle of gunfire and deported him, still in his nightshirt.

Zelaya may have helped open an avenue to compromise by saying he
will leave office at the end of his term in January and will not try to modify the constitution. He was toppled largely because Congress and the courts accused him of trying to change the constitution illegally to retain power.

But other issues still complicate a solution: Honduran officials say they will arrest Zelaya on more than a dozen charges ranging from corruption to treason if he sets foot in the country. Zelaya's backers say the coup leaders must be punished.

Thousands of people on both sides of the fight were mobilizing again Thursday. On Wednesday, Zelaya supporters held a large march in the capital and Micheletti supporters demonstrated elsewhere. No violence was reported.

Seeking to stem internal unrest, Honduras' Congress approved a bill Wednesday toughening a nighttime curfew in place since the coup. The law gives authorities the power to conduct warrantless arrests and removes constitutional rights to assembly and movement from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.

The new government also ordered home Honduras' pro-Zelaya ambassadors to the U.S., the United Nations and the OAS.

The U.N. ambassador, Jorge Arturo Reyna, refused, saying he took
orders only from Zelaya, and OAS Ambassador Carlos Sosa called the
order "an excellent joke." But Honduras' ambassador to Washington
returned home and said he was recognizing Micheletti's government.

"This is not a coup d'etat, but rather a process in which a judicial order has been carried out," envoy Roberto Flores Bermudez said.

The Obama administration has sided clearly with Zelaya, and Micheletti told The Associated Press that he has had no contact with any U.S. official since the coup.


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