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Costa Rica's Oscar Arias to mediate in Honduras crisis

Costa Rica’s President Oscar Arias will serve as mediator this week in negotiations to broker an agreement between Honduras’s two presidents: deposed leader Manuel Zelaya and the man named to succeed him, Roberto Micheletti.

The talks are slated to begin Thursday in Arias’ San José home, the Costa Rican leader said in a press conference this afternoon also held inside his elegant residence.

Arias has said he’s willing to mediate the Honduras standoff but only if both parties agree to negotiate. Today he got the green light from both Zelaya and Micheletti, plus an added thumbs up from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with whom Zelaya met today in Washington, D.C.

“Both sides of the Honduran conflict have accepted… have invited me, rather, to be a facilitator, a mediator in order for both sides to sit down and negotiate,” Arias said.

It will be the second opportunity for Arias to prove his mettle as an international peace broker, after assisting in negotiations that ended the region’s 1980s civil wars, which earned him a Nobel Peace Prize in 1987. It’s also the chance of a lifetime for the politician, ending his second term of as president next year.

Considering his reputation, Arias is the “natural person to assume this role,” said Clinton according to Washington Post.

Speaking from experience, Arias made a plea for patience.

“Once seated around a table, a miracle has to occur to create a lot of trust, to have a lot of humility, to understand that in a negotiation one doesn’t always get what one would like. You have to be willing to make concessions. There has to be patience because this takes time, and for this I have asked each, that this isn’t a matter of a day, but they have to be available to stay here Thursday and Friday, I hope perhaps in two days this issue can be resolved. Hopefully we can reach an agreement that’s satisfactory for both sides.”

Zelaya has been flying from city to city through the region since his military dragged him from bed in a predawn raid on June 28 and sent him flying in his pajamas to Costa Rica. Having garnered remarkable international support for his cause to return to power, Zelaya’s due to return first to Costa Rica Wednesday night to engage his rival the following day. Hopes are high the process will end the Honduras debacle, one of Latin America’s worst political crises in years.

The task won't be easy. Micheletti said he would have Zelaya arrested if the ousted leader sets foot in Honduras, although the interim government has made this difficult. Military vehicles and tanks lined up along the Tegucigalpa airport runway on Sunday to block Zelaya's plane from landing.

All eyes in Central America will be on Costa Rica to see if its outgoing leader can once again rise to the occasion and succeed in mediating a solution.