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Honduras negotiations falter

Two days of intense negotiations in Costa Rica fail to bring about solution to Honduras stalemate.

Members of Honduras' interim President Roberto Micheletti's delegation, Arturo Corrales, Carlos Lopez and Vilma Morales, confer during a meeting with the delegation of ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya in San Jose, July 10, 2009. (Handout/Reuters)

SAN JOSE — Costa Rican President Oscar Arias said in the coming days he will announce a date to resume talks to bring an end to the standoff between two men fighting for the soul of Honduras.

The chosen mediator, Arias spoke to an ample crowd of reporters Friday with a voice that has grown hoarse — though not short of his usual poetics — after two days of intense negotiations that failed to reach a hoped-for resolution.

“Yesterday (Thursday) I told you this would take time, but I will insist until the point of exhaustion that in the epic journey of humanity, the decisive step is always the first one. Our Honduran brethren here in Costa Rica have taken that step,” Arias said.

Costa Rica this week entered the eye of the political storm that has engulfed its fellow Central American nation of Honduras. Whereas on June 28, a pajama-clad, freshly ousted President Manuel Zelaya arrived unexpectedly at Costa Rica’s doorstep, this past Tuesday Arias offered an invitation to both Zelaya and his replacement, de facto President Roberto Micheletti — this time to squelch their fight through a mediation process in his living room.

But Zelaya and Micheletti arrived agreeing only on one point: Their demands are not open to negotiation. And the former friends refused to sit tête-à-tête in the same room.

Zelaya has called Micheletti a criminal "golpista" (coup leader) and, with widespread international backing, demands to be reinstated as Honduras’ elected president. Micheletti, meanwhile, has vowed to arrest Zelaya if he sets foot in Honduras, claiming the president was legally ousted for seeking to reform the constitution in a Hugo Chavez-influenced plot to extend presidential term limits. Zelaya had sought to hold a poll to ask the Honduran people whether they'd be willing to vote on allowing constitutional reform. The poll was slated for June 28, the day of his ouster.

This Thursday each man met Arias separately, spoke briefly to the press, and then left the country the same day, their positions seeming as entrenched as ever. Most reckoned the mediation to be done for. However, in their place, the rival leaders each left a four-person team to hammer out an agreement.

Meanwhile, outside the lavish Arias manor, hundreds of pro-Zelaya protesters rallied on Thursday, some holding signs calling Micheletti a “gorilla” — the kind of name-calling that has also been voiced by Chavez, an ally of Zelaya. (The leftist Venezuelan leader has now added nuance to the mockery, calling Micheletti a “gorilla in a tie.”)