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Agence France-Presse

Honduras Crisis Talks Continue Past Deadlines


Ousted Honduras President Manuel Zelaya smiles after an interview with Reuters by mobile phone from inside the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa, October 16, 2009. Honduras' de facto leader Roberto Micheletti is resisting international pressure to reinstate his rival Zelaya, but envoys for the leftist ousted in a coup hope for a deal on Friday. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

TEGUCIGALPA - Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya threatened to break off talks on resolving the political crisis here if agreement is not reached with the de facto government by Monday.

Earlier deadlines set by Zelaya came and went on Friday as negotiators pressed ahead with deadlocked talks on the key question of whether the deposed leader would be reinstated and how that would be decided.

"We firmly maintain our proposal and President Zelaya gives a new extension until Monday. We are awaiting a response, otherwise the dialogue is broken," Ricardo Martinez, Zelaya's tourism minister, told reporters.

Zelaya's representative at the talks earlier rejected as "absolutely unacceptable" a proposal by interim leader Roberto Micheletti that the Honduran Supreme Court decide whether the cowboy-hatted ousted president should be reinstated.

"It's an absurd proposal," said Victor Meza, reaffirming Zelaya's position that the Honduran Congress decide on his reinstatement.

But Meza said the Zelaya camp was giving Micheletti time to reconsider his position, and both sides said the talks were being pursued.

"We will continue the dialogue for as long as necessary," said Rafael Pineda Ponce, the representative of the interim government.

Meanwhile in Bolivia, leaders of a bloc of leftist Latin American countries approved a resolution supporting economic and trade sanctions against the de facto government of Honduras for refusing to restore to power Zelaya, who has been holed up in the Brazilian embassy since his return last month.

The resolution was approved by the leaders of Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Venezuela, Dominica, Antigua, Barbuda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Zelaya was overthrown in a June 28 coup backed by the military, the Supreme Court and the Honduran Congress over his attempt to hold a referendum to change the constitution.

His opponents charged that he was seeking to lift constitutional limits on his term in office so that he could run for re-election.

His reinstatement was first proposed by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias as part of a settlement that would include the formation of a unity government, presidential elections in November and a normal transfer of power in January.

Negotiators have said they have reached agreement on most of those points, but Zelaya's reinstatement remains the final, toughest stumbling block to a settlement.

"We're going into the last phase," said Vilma Morales, the spokeswoman for Micheletti's negotiators.

Zelaya told AFP late Thursday that "the climate is extremely delicate and dangerous."

After months of protests and crackdowns by security forces, representatives of Zelaya and Micheletti finally sat down together last week to try to hammer out a settlement to the political crisis that has compounded economic woes in the nation of some 7.6 million people.

The United States has called for Zelaya's return to office, and pressured the Micheletti government by suspending some 30 million dollars in financial aid programs and canceling US visas of its top officials.

Zelaya antagonized the country's elite by aligning himself with Venezuela's leftist President Hugo Chavez.

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