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Honduran official says post-coup leader ready to accept new president

HONDURAN post-coup leader Roberto Micheletti would be ready to accept a new president to end the political crisis in the country, a senior official said yesterday.

Without violating the constitution, Micheletti is "ready to accept a third president," said Rafael Pineda Ponce, a senior official of the Micheletti's government. He added that the new incumbent would be neither Micheletti nor ousted President Manuel Zelaya.

Micheletti was appointed interim president by the congress hours after Zelaya was seized from his bed and forced to fly to Costa Rica in a military coup on June 28.

Zelaya, with wide international support, has been actively pressing for his reinstatement.

His representatives and those for the Honduran interim government will hold talks mediated by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias today to find a solution to the crisis in Honduras.

Arias, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for helping to end Central America's wars, has indicated that his proposal for a coalition government would dominate the talks.

Nevertheless, Micheletti on Thursday rejected the proposal that called for the establishment of a government of "national reconciliation."

Zelaya also reject the power-sharing idea in which he could return to serve out the remaining months of his term, but with limited powers.

"I cannot accept a reward for the coup leaders because that would be an aberration," he said.

Arias, however, expressed his optimism about the proposal earlier yesterday, saying both camps have "softened, and I think we are going to find more flexibility."

Meanwhile, local media reported that Zelaya, who is currently in the Nicaraguan capital of Managua, gave negotiators until the end of today to reach a deal with coup leaders to reinstate him in office.

At the Honduran embassy in Nicaragua, he told reporters that he would consider negotiations a failure if an agreement to reinstate him were not reached by midnight.

Patricia Rodas, Zelaya's foreign minister, said the ousted president would return to Honduras to install a parallel government if negotiations fail.

"I am going back to Honduras but I am not going to give you the date, hour or place, or say if I'm going to enter through land, air or sea," Zelaya was quoted as saying by local media.

His previous attempt to fly back to Honduras on July 5 was thwarted by Honduran troops that prevented the plane from landing in the capital of Tegucigalpa.

In Honduras, Zelaya's supporters blocked the entrance to Tegucigalpa for the second day in a row.

His followers also protested at Honduras's borders with El Salvador and Guatemala to demand his reinstatement. A spokesman for the protestors said their "companions" from El Salvador supported them.

The ousted president's followers said they will step up their protests until Micheletti steps down.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Wood called on nations in the region to support the upcoming talks mediated by Arias.

"We don't want people to take steps that in any way conflict or don't contribute positively to the Arias mediation efforts," Wood told reporters.

He said the Arias engagement process is the best way to help Honduras "return to democratic and constitutional order."


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