Sun, Jul 19, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Zelaya toughens rhetoric, stance

FINAL BATTLE The ousted Honduran president gave coup leaders until midnight last night to restore him to office, threatening to return to the country in secret

AP , TEGUCIGALPA, HONDURAS

Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya speaks to the media during a news conference at the Honduran embassy in Managua yesterday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

An ultimatum from ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya left little room for compromise in US-backed talks yesterday aimed at resolving a crisis that has become the latest test for democracy in Latin America.

Zelaya, who was forced into exile in a June 28 military coup, gave negotiators meeting in Costa Rica until midnight to restore him to office, threatening to return to Honduras in secret and attempt to retake power on his own if no agreement is reached. He indicated he would reject any power-sharing agreement, a proposal to be discussed at the talks.

?f at that time, there is no resolution to that end, I will consider the negotiations in Costa Rica a failure,?Zelaya said at a news conference on Friday night at the Honduran embassy in Nicaragua. ? am going back to Honduras, but I am not going to give you the date, hour or place, or say if I? going to enter through land, air or sea.?br />

He did not say what steps he would subsequently take. But earlier this week, he said Hondurans have a constitutional right to rebel against an illegitimate government. His foreign minister, Patricia Rodas, said on Thursday that if the talks failed, Zelaya would return to Honduras to install a parallel government ?o direct what I will call the final battle.?br />

The interim government has vowed to arrest Zelaya if he returns.

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, who is mediating the talks, had appeared optimistic about a resolution earlier on Friday, saying both camps had ?oftened, and I think we are going to find more flexibility.?In the first round of talks the two sides agreed only to meet again.

Arias has presented a series of possible compromises to both camps, including a power-sharing deal in which Zelaya could return to serve out the remaining months of his term as president, but with limited power.

Zelaya suggested he would reject such a plan. ? cannot accept a reward for the coup leaders because that would be an aberration,?he said.

Arias also said an amnesty deal for Zelaya was possible.

Honduras?Supreme Court issued an arrest warrant for Zelaya before the coup, ruling his effort to hold a referendum on whether to form a constitutional assembly was illegal. The military decided to send Zelaya into exile instead ?a move that military lawyers themselves have called illegal but necessary.

Many Hondurans viewed the proposed referendum as an attempt by Zelaya to push for a 貞ocialist-leaning government similar to the one his ally Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has established in Venezuela.

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