Honduras optimistic as talks resume

By Juan Zamorano
Associated Press / October 30, 2009

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TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras - Honduras’s opposing political factions resumed talks yesterday and expressed hope that a deal could be reached soon to end the power crisis that has paralyzed the country since a coup four months ago.

The two sides returned to the negotiating table a day after visiting US diplomats urged both factions to be more flexible and find a solution before previously scheduled presidential elections looming in November.

The international community has threatened not to recognize the vote if deposed President Manuel Zelaya is not reinstated.

Rodil Rivera, a Zelaya representative, said yesterday that an agreement could be signed calling for the Honduran Congress to decide whether to restore Zelaya - the central point to the standoff.

The interim government of Roberto Micheletti also expressed hope that an accord could be near.

“Today will be a jubilant day for Hondurans because we will fix everything without looking at the past, only looking ahead,’’ Vilma Morales, Micheletti negotiator, said before heading into the talks yesterday. “We are pleased Zelaya has agreed to [resume] the talks.’’

Tom Shannon, US assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs, arrived with a delegation Wednesday to push the two sides toward a solution.

Shannon said yesterday that the envoys were extending their visit and expected an agreement would be reached before they leave.

The delegation, which includes Shannon’s department’s number two, Craig Kelly, and Dan Restrepo, President Obama’s point man on Latin America to the National Security Council - attended the talks as observers.

Meanwhile, police fired tear gas to disperse a march of about 1,000 Zelaya supporters as they neared the hotel where the talks were taking place.

The international community wants Zelaya to be reinstated. Micheletti’s government has refused to allow that and said the Nov. 29 election could resolve the crisis by electing a new leader.

Shannon said that as long as the two sides can agree to a deal, the election will be recognized. He refused to say whether that means an agreement that stops short of returning Zelaya to the presidency before the election could be acceptable.