Sat, Jul 04, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Honduran leader hints early vote is a possibility

TIME TO TALK President Ma called on Hondurans to adhere to democratic principles and urged all sides to use dialogue to resolve the conflict

AP , TEGUCIGALPA

Supporters of ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya march in protest against the military coup in Tegucigalpa on Thursday.

PHOTO: AFP

Honduras’ interim leader said he was open to early elections if it resolves an impasse with the world community, as a top diplomat headed to the Central American nation to demand he restore the president ousted by a coup.

With time running out on today’s deadline by the Organization of American States (OAS) to return ousted president Manuel Zelaya to power, OAS chief Jose Miguel Insulza was to arrive in Honduras yesterday to push for his reinstatement.

Insulza said he would meet with leaders of Honduras’ Supreme Court and Congress — institutions that approved last Sunday’s coup — “basically to clarify exactly what our position is.”

But he has said he will not meet with members of Roberto Micheletti’s military-backed government to avoid legitimizing it.

Micheletti said Insulza would be welcome in Honduras, adding that “if he wants to talk with me, I’ll receive him gladly.”

Asked later if he would be willing to move up presidential elections from their scheduled date of Nov. 29, Micheletti said the idea was acceptable as long as it was done within the framework of the law.

“I have no problem or objection to this, if it will solve these problems,” Micheletti said.

Micheletti argued that Honduras’ military acted legally when it raided Zelaya’s house and deported him.

He said he feared violence if Zelaya were to return to Honduras, as he had said he would do this weekend accompanied by the presidents of Argentina and Ecuador, among other figures.

“For the peace of the country I would prefer that he did not come, because I do not want one drop of blood shed by any Honduran,” Micheletti said.

Insulza said he would do everything he could in Honduras yesterday, but added that he believed “it will be very hard to turn things around in a couple of days.”

The OAS says it will suspend Honduras if Zelaya isn’t back in office by today, bringing sanctions that could block international aid.

Zelaya’s defense minister, Aristides Mejia, suggested a possible “peaceful arrangement” to the dispute in an interview broadcast on Thursday by HRN radio.

Zelaya left Panama and arrived in El Salvador late on Thursday, where he held talks with Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes. Salvadoran officials said he left El Salvador immediately afterward for an unidentified country.

He said Zelaya had sworn off any idea of re-election and was willing to drop plans to rewrite the Constitution that led to his ouster. Zelaya had ignored a Supreme Court order to halt a vote on whether to revamp the Constitution.

Zelaya’s supporters staged their largest demonstration since the coup as more than 6,000 people marched from a park in front of a military base to a UN office. An equal number of Micheletti backers marched in San Pedro Sula, the country’s second-biggest city.

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) on Thursday called on Hondurans to adhere to democratic principles and urged all sides to use dialogue to resolve the conflict.

“We expressed our concerns about the coup and condemned any actions against democracy and the rule of law,” Ma said at a press conference in Panama City.

Ma was scheduled to spend two days in Honduras during his ongoing trip to Central America. The Presidential Office canceled the visit after Zelaya’s ouster.

Ma said the coup was a domestic affair for Honduras and should be solved by the country itself.

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