San Jose: Talks on resolving the Honduran political crisis headed towards failure on Wednesday when the interim government indicated it would reject a mediator's final proposal for returning ousted president Manuel Zelaya to power.
Zelaya, who is in neighbouring Nicaragua, declared the mediation effort a failure and vowed to return to Honduras on Friday without an agreement. He said he would travel to northern Nicaragua on Thursday and try to cross the border by land the next day accompanied by his wife and children.
"The coup leaders are totally refusing my reinstatement," Zelaya said during a brief news conference in the Nicaraguan capital, Managua. "By refusing to sign, (the talks) have failed."
Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, who mediated the talks with US backing, presented an 11-point plan that called for Zelaya's return to the presidency in two days and offered amnesty for the coup leaders that ousted him.
Arias said the plan was his last attempt at mediating a peaceful solution to the conflict. He said Zelaya and the interim government should turn to the Organisation of American States for a new mediator if they refuse to sign the agreement.
Arias warned both sides that time was running out for a peaceful solution and urged them to set an example by becoming the first country in modern history to reverse a coup through a negotiated agreement.
"The clock is ticking fast, and it's ticking against the Honduran people," Arias said in Costa Rica's capital, San Jose. "I warn you that this plan is not perfect. Nothing in democracy is perfect."
Mauricio Villeda, of interim President Roberto Micheletti's delegation, said he would take the proposals back to Honduras to present to the president, congress and the Supreme Court for consideration.
But Micheletti's Foreign Minister Carlos Lopez flatly rejected returning Zelaya to the presidency, saying the executive branch cannot overturn a Supreme Court ruling forbidding the reinstatement of the ousted leader.
"A proposal of that nature is inconceivable, unacceptable," Lopez told Radio America.
Micheletti's refusal to budge comes despite stepped up pressure from the United States and other nations, which have warned of tough sanctions unless Zelaya is restored.
Rixi Moncada, of Zelaya's delegation, called the mediation efforts a failure and called on the United Nations and the OAS to "adopt the coercive measures necessary to force the interim government to submit" to the resolutions that both organisations have approved calling for the return of Zelaya.”
"The mediation had only one goal: to enforce the mandate of the OAS and restore the constitutional order in Honduras with the return of President Manuel Zelaya," Moncada said. "That is why, for us, the Accord of San Jose has failed."
Zelaya had given mediators a midnight deadline to achieve his reinstatement, threatening to return to Honduras with or without an agreement and seek the prosecution of leaders of the coup that forced him into exile.
Such a scenario risks provoking violence: thousands of Honduras have protested almost daily since the June 28 coup both against and in favour of Zelaya. On Wednesday, tens of thousands of Zelaya foes took to the streets in the biggest show of opposition yet to his return.
First Published: Thursday, July 23, 2009, 09:46