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US Urges Patience in Honduras Crisis Talks


The United States Tuesday that there should be no artificial deadlines in efforts by Costa Rica President Oscar Arias to mediate the Honduran political crisis. Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya says he will quit the talks unless he is reinstated quickly.

The Obama administration is standing by its insistence that Mr. Zelaya be returned to office as part of any settlement, but it is counseling patience on the part of the deposed president who was ousted in a coup June 28.

With U.S. encouragement, Costa Rican President Oscar Arias - a Nobel Peace Laureate - agreed to mediate the dispute between Mr. Zelaya and interim Honduran President Roberto Micheletti, who was installed by the country's congress after the coup.

The mediation process began last week when Mr. Arias met separately with the two rivals in San Jose. He has set another round of talks Saturday with representatives of the two sides but Mr. Zelaya said Monday he will abandon the talks if an agreement returning him to power is not reached at that time.

At a news briefing here, State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly said the United States continues to support a restoration of democratic order in Honduras that includes Mr. Zelaya's return to office but said there should be no time constraints on negotiations.

"We think that all parties in the talks should give this process some time," said Ian Kelly. "Don't set any artificial deadlines. Don't say if 'X' doesn't happen by a certain time, then the talks are dead. We have to give the process a chance, and support what President Arias is doing."

President Zelaya was arrested by Honduran troops and deported to Costa Rica in the June 28 coup, triggered by his efforts to hold a referendum that could have kept him in office beyond the end of his term in January.

Coup supporters said the left-leaning Mr. Zelaya sought to violate the country's constitution, and that interim President Micheletti was legally installed.

But the United States and the Organization of American States say the coup violated the Inter-American Democratic Charter and Honduras has been suspended from the OAS.

President Arias, who won the Nobel prize in 1987 for his efforts to resolve Central American civil conflicts, also appealed for additional time on Tuesday - saying Mr. Zelaya's desire for an early return is understandable but that there must be patience.

Mr. Zelaya, a political ally of populist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, has not said what he will do if his self-described ultimatum for a return to power within a week is not heeded. The interim government in Tegucigalpa has said Mr. Zelaya cannot return under any circumstances.

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