Fri, Jul 31, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Mediator calls for continued sanctions in Honduras

AP , SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias said on Wednesday that foreign governments should keep on applying sanctions against Honduras’ interim government even as its leaders expressed interest in further negotiations on ending the standoff.

Arias, who sought unsuccessfully to mediate a compromise between ousted Honruran president Manuel Zelaya and his foes, said the interim administration “isn’t convinced” and “hasn’t yet recognized that President Zelaya should be reinstated.”

Arias told reporters at a regional summit in Costa Rica that “sanctions should continue to be applied.”

Some governments have frozen aid programs for Honduras or canceled visas for officials connected to the interim government.

The Costa Rican leader said acting Honduran President Roberto Micheletti had called him to ask that Arias send an envoy to Honduras to speak with all three branches of the interim government.

He said Micheletti had suggested Enrique Iglesias, the former longtime head of the Inter-American Development Bank. Arias did not say whether Iglesias would go.

Micheletti issued a statement on Wednesday calling Arias’ mediation “the best path to achieving a consensus in Honduras,” and he asked Arias to include all parts of society in the dialogue, including church groups, students, business groups, unions, political parties and news media.

“Our citizens need to support and broaden the San Jose dialogue in Honduras, that is, have a dialogue among our own people,” Micheletti wrote.

Last week, Micheletti’s government rejected a proposal by Arias that Zelaya resume the presidency in a coalition government of all parties and that amnesty be given to both sides.

Honduran officials said Zelaya would be arrested if he returned to his homeland.

In Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital, pro-Zelaya protesters returned to the streets and blocked traffic in another of their daily demonstrations demanding his restoration to the presidency.

Backers of the government that was installed after the army flew Zelaya out of Honduras on June 28 have also held demonstrations.

Meanwhile, two Venezuelan diplomats remained holed up at their country’s embassy a week after the interim government ordered them to leave.

The interim government accuses Venezuela — whose President Hugo Chavez is a vocal ally of Zelaya’s — of threatening Honduras and interfering in its internal affairs. It gave the diplomats a 72-hour deadline to leave on July 21, but they refused, saying they didn’t recognize the government.

The embassy’s charge d’affaires, Ariel Vargas, vowed to hold out in the embassy as about 20 Zelaya supporters gathered outside seeking to block any forcible takeover.

“We can’t go out on the street for fear they will arrest us,” Vargas told reporters.

The interim government has said it will simply wait for the Venezuelans to leave.

Zelaya and a group of about 500 supporters remained at a Nicaraguan town on the border with Honduras.

On Wednesday, UN officials toured the camp “to see what these people’s health condition is,” said Nicaraguan Health Minister Guillermo Gonzalez, who accompanied the group.

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