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Honduran rivals sides dig in for more talks

Delegates for ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya and his country's interim leader were due to hold a second day of crisis talks Friday with both sides said to be digging in their heels.

world Updated: Jul 10, 2009 21:52 IST

Delegates for ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya and his country's interim leader were due to hold a second day of crisis talks Friday with both sides said to be digging in their heels.

President of the Organization of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza, hit out at what he called the intransigence of the two sides at the talks in San Jose aimed at finding a way out of the political crisis rocking Honduras.

"They called me at about two, three o'clock in the morning in Washington (to tell) me that the positions have become much more rigid," Insulza told Chilean radio.

Zelaya and interim leader Roberto Micheletti have yet to meet face to face since the elected Honduran president was ousted in an army-backed coup on June 28. Micheletti was sworn in the same day by Congress as the new leader.

"The truth is that there are still intransigence on both sides," Insulza added.

Late Thursday Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, who is mediating the talks, appealed for more time to bridge the differences between the two sides as the two men left the country after failing to meet as expected.

Delegates from both sides were set to continue the talks on Friday at 10:00 am (1600 GMT) aiming to find a middle ground between the two camps.

Micheletti has insisted he will stay in power, and Zelaya, elected in November 2005 to a single non-renewable term, is calling to be reinstated.

"This could possibly take more time than imagined," Arias said, after speaking separately to the two men.

Costa Rica's Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno insisted however there were some areas of agreement and said he hoped Friday's talks could produce guidelines for moving forward, and maybe set a date for the rival leaders to meet.

On his return to the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, on Thursday, Micheletti said he was ready to return to the talks "if necessary."

"If I am invited by President Arias, I will return with great pleasure," Micheletti said.

On Friday Zelaya arrived in the Dominican Republic as part of his tour of Latin America to drum up support for his bid to return to power.

"We have made the first step," Zelaya said Thursday. "President Arias heard my position and that of the union and political representatives with me, which is the immediate restoration of the elected president."

Honduras, an impoverished Central American country of seven million inhabitants, has been roiled by protests since June 28, when Zelaya was abducted by the army in a dawn raid on his home and forcibly deported.

The United States has suspended military ties with Tegucigalpa and is warning it could sever 200 million dollars in aid. The World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank have frozen credit lines.

Zelaya's left-wing allies have also made life uncomfortable for Micheletti. Venezuela has suspended its oil deliveries to Honduras, while Nicaragua denied Micheletti permission to fly through its airspace for the Costa Rica meeting.

Amid the tension, there was speculation that a door was open to a possible solution.

The Honduran Supreme Court said ahead of the talks that if the congress granted Zelaya amnesty, he could return to Honduras without fearing an arrest warrant for treason issued against him.

But many Honduran business leaders have opposed any return of the beleaguered leader.

"There has been an irreversible democratic transition in Honduras, and we're going to have to stick together to create jobs in the teeth of the global crisis and if there is international isolation," Adolfo Facusse, an employers' federation chief, told AFP.

A wealthy rancher who veered strongly left since becoming president in January 2006, Zelaya raised the ire of lawmakers, judges and his country's military by seeking to hold a referendum to rewrite the constitution so he could run for a second term.