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Honduras Talks Fail To Reach Agreement

JUAN ZAMORANO   07/11/09 08:40 PM ET   AP

Honduras

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Supporters of ousted President Manuel Zelaya paid tribute Saturday to a teenager killed during protests and expressed fear the interim government will drag out negotiations to resolve the crisis so it can remain in power through November elections.

But a delegate of de facto President Roberto Micheletti who participated in the talks in Costa Rica on Friday, said his side has not ruled out the possibility of early elections as a way out of the conflict.

The only consensus reached between representatives of Zelaya and Micheletti during a second round of negotiations on Friday was that they would meet again _ fueling concern the crisis could continue for months. No date was set for future negotiations.

Micheletti _ the congressional leader who was sworn in as president when the military escorted Zelaya out of the country on June 28 _ made no public statements Saturday.

Zelaya, who was in the Dominican Republic, flew to Washington, but declined to comment on his plans to reporters before boarding the plane.

But his wife, Xiomara Castro, who attended the demonstration in the capital, Tegucigalpa, said Zelaya "is very excited, confident" that he will return to power with the help of the Organization of American States, the United Nations and "especially the United States," which have all denounced his ouster.

Former Honduran Foreign Minister Carlos Lopez, of the Micheletti delegation, said his side has not ruled out holding early elections. Lopez said Friday's talks were a way for the two sides to approach each other and now "we have the opportunity to reflect."

Friday's meetings took place without Zelaya and Micheletti. Each leader met separately with chief mediator, Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, on Thursday but refused to talk together _ insisting that the other give up claims to lead the country.

Arias vowed to name a date to resume the talks in coming days. A Costa Rican government spokesman, who was not authorized to give his name, said Saturday that Arias has been losing his voice and after seeing a doctor planned to spend a quiet weekend analyzing the situation.

Arias was diagnosed with a nonmalignant cyst on his vocal cords last year and advised not to speak for a month, but the spokesman said the president had no plans to postpone talks because of his condition.

But Zelaya's supporters at home fear the interim government may drag out the process as a way of wearing them down. They have held daily demonstrations in Tegucigalpa since his ouster.

Zelaya's wife was among about 1,000 people at a peaceful demonstration near the airport Saturday to honor Isis Murillo, 19, a protester from Zelaya's home state of Olancho who was shot by soldiers at the airport a week ago during Zelaya's unsuccessful attempt to return. Zelaya's plane had been blocked from landing by military vehicles parked on the runways.

"There are few possibilities for a way out," said Juan Barahona, a national leader of the protest movement. "What I see is that the coup perpetrators are interested in staying in power and wearing out the resistance movement."

President Barack Obama's administration, the U.N. and the OAS have demanded that Zelaya be returned to power so he can serve out a term that ends in January. No foreign government has recognized Micheletti.

U.S. officials have promoted the talks in Costa Rica's capital, hoping to ease Zelaya back into the presidency while resolving the concerns of Honduras' Supreme Court, Congress and military, which say they legally removed the president for violating the constitution. They accuse him of trying to extend his time in office, though he denies that.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Friday the pace of negotiations will be set by Arias, but U.S. officials would continue consultations and would work within the OAS.

Arias won the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize for his role in ending Central America's civil wars.

____

Associated Press Writers Marianela Jimenez in San Jose, Costa Rica, and Ramon Almanzar in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, contributed to this report.

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