Friday, July 24, 2009
Ousted President Manuel Zelaya is on his way to the Honduran border in a second attempt to return home after nearly a month in exile, reports say.
He left the Honduran embassy in the Nicaraguan capital Managua for the border city of Esteli, from where he will try a land crossing on Saturday.
He is being accompanied by Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro.
The interim government has vowed to arrest him if he sets foot in Honduras, as mediation talks failed.
Mr Zelaya made an attempt to return home on 5 July, but his plane was prevented from landing when the Honduran military blocked the runway.
This time, he said he hoped soldiers at the land border would stand down when they saw him and called on his supporters to meet him.
"I think the guns will be lowered when they see their people and their president," Mr Zelaya was quoted as saying by AP news agency shortly before leaving.
He said earlier that his wife and children would accompany him and that he would "go back unarmed, pacifically, so that Honduras can return to peace and tranquillity".
Mr Zelaya was exiled on 28 June after a crisis erupted over his attempts to hold a vote on changing the constitution.
The ousted leader was attempting a second return after delegations from the two sides failed to reach agreement at talks in Costa Rica mediated by President Oscar Arias.
Mr Arias produced a detailed plan to facilitate Mr Zelaya's return, which include proposals for:
Mr Zelaya to return to the presidency on Friday and serve out his term which ends in January 2010
a government of national reconciliation to be formed by 27 July
an amnesty to be granted covering political crimes committed during this crisis
a truth commission to be set up to investigate events in the run-up to Mr Zelaya's removal
presidential elections to be held a month early, on 28 October.
President Arias, a Nobel peace laureate, said this was his third and final attempt to mediate a peaceful solution.
There have been protests both for and against Mr Zelaya's return
"The clock is ticking fast, and it's ticking against the Honduran people," he said.
"I warn you that this plan is not perfect. Nothing in democracy is perfect."
Delegates of the interim government reiterated they would not reinstate Mr Zelaya as president but said they would present the Arias plan to Congress.
But since it was Congress that approved the ousting of Mr Zelaya, the move may prove to be of limited importance, says the BBC Central America correspondent, Stephen Gibbs.
If no agreement were reached, Mr Arias suggested that the Organisation of American States (OAS) take over the negotiations.
That might put further pressure on the interim government, says our correspondent.
The OAS, along with other international groupings, has been quite clear that Mr Zelaya is the legitimate president, and should be reinstated immediately.
The crisis was triggered when Mr Zelaya sought to hold a non-binding public consultation to ask people whether they supported efforts to change the constitution.
Critics interpreted that as an attempt to remove the current one-term limit on serving as president.
The Supreme Court declared his attempt to hold a vote illegal under the Honduran constitution and the military was sent to arrest him. He was flown into exile on 28 June.
Carlos Lopez, foreign minister in the military-backed interim government, told reporters in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, on Wednesday that there was no chance of Mr Zelaya returning as president.
"This hypothesis of a possible return of Mr Zelaya to occupy the presidency is completely ruled out."
Speaking in Managua, Mr Zelaya said: "The coup leaders are totally refusing my reinstatement."
"By refusing to sign, [the talks] have failed."