Wed, Sep 16, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Arias to meet Honduras presidential candidates to discuss Zelaya’s return


The international community’s chief mediator in the Honduran political crisis said on Monday he would meet the country’s presidential candidates to emphasize that upcoming elections would not be recognized if held under the government installed by a coup.

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias said he would meet at least four of the six candidates today, including the top two contenders, in an effort to gain their support for restoring ousted president Manuel Zelaya before the Nov. 29 ballot.

Arias, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who has been leading US-backed efforts to restore Zelaya, said he would make clear that the world would not recognize the outcome of the election unless Zelaya is reinstated before then.

“The idea is to speak with them frankly,” Arias said at a news conference in Costa Rica’s capital, San Jose, where the meeting will take place. “What good is there for a presidential hopeful in Honduras to win the elections if his future government will not be recognized by the international community and the sanctions will continue or even increase?” Arias asked.

Arias said he hoped to persuade the candidates to back a compromise that he proposed weeks ago, which would return Zelaya to the presidency with limited powers until his constitutional term ends in January.

Interim President Roberto Micheletti has rejected the plan despite mounting international pressure since soldiers forced Zelaya into exile on June 28 in a dispute over the ousted leader’s efforts to change the Constitution of Honduras.

The US and many Latin American countries have warned they will not recognize the November election unless Zelaya is put back in office. Arias spoke after meeting with Craig Kelly, the No. 2 official at the US State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.

Kelly said he supported the meeting with the presidential candidates and reiterated the US view that the “best way to achieve international recognition for the elections” was for Honduras to accept Arias’ proposed compromise.

On Monday, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico refused to accept the participation of the Honduran ambassador at a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva because he is not from Zelaya’s government.

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