Mediator: Reinstalling Zelaya is essential to Honduran peace

Deposed Honduran President Jose Manuel Zelaya must be returned to power as the first step toward ending the political impasse gripping the Central American nation, a Latin-American leader heading negotiations said Saturday.

While hosting second-round talks at his home, Costa Rican President Oscar Arias outlined seven steps he believes need to be taken. Zelaya was removed from office June 28 in a military-led coup that has drawn international condemnation. Congressional leader Roberto Micheletti was sworn in hours later as provisional president. Delegations representing Zelaya and Micheletti met at Arias’ home in Costa Rica last week but did not reach an accord. The bitterness is so deep — and the two sides are so entrenched — that they would not shake hands at the conclusion of the day’s negotiations. Still, Arias held out hope Saturday. “Force was the origin of this problem but it will never be its solution,” he said before the talks began. “We crossed this threshold aware of the challenges we face, but also convinced that there is no wall so tall that it can’t be climbed by the force of willpower. We closed the door in order to reach accords. We expect to open them to announce those accords.”

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The talks started Saturday morning and continued into the afternoon. There were no further public comments by participants. Zelaya has threatened to take further unspecified actions unless an agreement is reached this weekend to return him to power. Other steps proposed by Arias include moving up elections scheduled for late November, establishing a national unity government, providing amnesty for all political crimes and setting up an international commission to oversee implementation of the accord.