Zelaya gives coup leaders ultimatum

Original source:

The mediator in Honduras's political crisis is looking increasingly discredited after proposing further talks between the ousted president and the leader of the right-wing coup.

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias has scheduled the further talks to take place tomorrow.

Negotiations to end the standoff over the June military-backed coup have increasingly come under fire, with President Manuel Zelaya's supporters saying that they will declare them failed if he is not reinstated tomorrow and Cuba's Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez criticising them as a US-backed trap.

With fears of conflict rising, Mr Arias acknowledged the urgency of getting a deal quickly, saying that 'we must remember that time is gold.

'I am going to propose various ideas. For example, installing a government of national reconciliation, a coalition of key ministers such as of finance, security, the interior or government. I'll see if we can talk of amnesties and for whom,' Mr Arias said.

Delegations representing Mr Zelaya and coup leader Roberto Micheletti are expected to join the talks but hopes for a resolution appear slim.

When he was last seen in public, Mr Zelaya vowed to return if the talks didn't immediately result in his reinstatement and he said that Hondurans have a constitutional right to launch an insurrection against an illegitimate government.

Ousted Foreign Minister Patricia Rodas reinforced this position, saying that Mr Zelaya's delegation has nothing to negotiate.

According to Ms Rodas, delegates will simply demand that the 'illegal regime surrender peacefully' and, if it doesn't, Mr Zelaya's side will declare the mediation to have failed.

On Wednesday Mr Micheletti offered to step down if there were guarantees that Mr Zelaya would not return to power.

'If he comes and presents himself to authorities, he is welcome in our country. But if he comes with the intention of starting a revolutionary movement then he will find a people disposed to do anything,' he said.

Former Cuban president Fidel Castro dismissed the talks as having allowed the coup leaders to become more entrenched.

'The Costa Rica peace plan was suggested by the office of the State Department to contribute to the consolidation of the military coup,' he said.

'The coup plotters were in a hurry. The Costa Rican initiative had the objective of saving them,' he added.

Last week, Mr Chavez called the talks a 'trap' for Mr Zelaya and criticised the Costa Rican president for treating Mr Zelaya and Mr Micheletti as equally legitimate.