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Diplomats, OAS Press for Resolution of Crisis in Honduras


Diplomats are pushing for compromise in Honduras to resolve a tense standoff between the deposed president and the interim government. So far, both sides are unwilling to cede ground on the claim to the presidency.

The Organization of American States is expected to lead the diplomatic effort to resolve the political crisis sparked when President Manuel Zelaya was deposed and flown out of the country on a military plane this week. An OAS team including Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza might arrive in the Central American country in coming days.

The United States has given its backing to the OAS to pursue a multi-lateral effort at reaching a compromise between Mr. Zelaya and the interim government led by Roberto Micheletti.

Maureen Meyer, a specialist on Central America at the Washington Office on Latin America, which promotes democracy in the region, says foreign mediation might be the best hope for easing the situation in Honduras.

"The international community and the OAS should play a strong role, as well the U.S., given that if left to their own devices, nothing is going to get resolved in Honduras by the Hondurans," said Maureen Meyer.

The OAS team likely will face a delicate balancing act because the regional group has refused to acknowledge the new government led by interim President Micheletti. At the same time, Mr. Micheletti has rejected calls from the OAS to return Mr. Zelaya to office by the end of the week. The OAS says Honduras will face suspension from the regional group if Mr. Zelaya is not restored as president.

Both men say they have a legitimate claim to the presidency based on the Honduran constitution. Mr. Zelaya says he remains the elected president. Mr. Micheletti says the president was removed after a court ruled that Mr. Zelaya was guilty of unconstitutional acts.

Larry Birns, Director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs in Washington, says the challenge for any compromise effort is to satisfy the legal claims of both leaders.

"What we are looking for is an exit strategy to save face, to legitimate the importance of constitutionality and, at the end of the day, to have a triumph for democratic procedure," said Larry Birns.

So far, it is unclear what shape a compromise could take. Birns says one option would be to allow Mr. Zelaya to return to Honduras and finish his term, and agree to relinquish his plans to seek a constitutional change to allow his re-election. Another option would be to have both men agree to name a third person to serve as president until new elections in November.

Either way, analyst Maureen Meyer says the clock is ticking for foreign diplomats to guide both sides to a resolution of the crisis. She says the longer the interim leadership remains in power, the more it can tighten its hold on the government.

"If this continues for too long, it is going to be even harder to go back to a different transition," she said.

Foreign governments have been increasing pressure on the interim leaders in Tegucigalpa. Several countries have recalled their ambassadors to protest the new government and some Central American nations have threatened to enact trade embargoes against Honduras. The World Bank has suspended lending to Honduras, which relies on loans for development and health programs.

Larry Birns says international pressure likely will push the interim government in Tegucigalpa closer to a compromise.

"The forces arrayed against them are too overwhelming and the cards that the golpistas [the coup leaders] hold are too few in number to win the day," he said.

Meanwhile, protests continued Thursday in Honduras by people in support of the new government and the ousted leader. Backers of Mr. Micheletti's interim government marched in the western city of San Pedro Sula, while Mr. Zelaya's supporters rallied outside the Congress in Tegucigalpa.

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