FMs fail to break Honduran deadlock

TEGUCIGALPA:Foreign ministers from the Organization of American States (OAS) left Honduras empty-handed after failing to negotiate a return to democracy with the interim regime.

"While the committee considers that advances were made during its visit, it must be noted that there is still no willingness to accept the San Jose Accord," the delegation said in a statement Tuesday, referring to July peace talks mediated by Costa Rica.

The talks called for the return to power of ousted President Manuel Zelaya, a demand that has been rejected by the interim government led by Roberto Micheletti.

Foreign ministers from Argentina, Canada, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Mexico and Panama, led by OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza, met with Micheletti for two hours in the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa.

"The Mission considers essential the prompt return to democratic normalcy that guarantees all Honduran people security, prosperity and development," said the statement.

It also stressed the need to approve the San Jose Accord, given that the election campaign was due to start on September 1.

Micheletti had initially told the delegation his new government was "not afraid of an embargo" and elections planned for November would go ahead whether or not they would be recognized by the international community.

But he later backed off from that position.

"It was nice that we could make peace with Insulza, who was very kind today," Micheletti told reporters, referring to the OAS chief.

"The talks were important, you need to keep talking so that we can have an outcome where all Hondurans will see peace and tranquility."

Micheletti's refusal to budge on moving to resolve the Honduran leadership crisis came as the United States sought to step up pressure on his government by announcing that it would halt most visa services in Honduras starting Wednesday.

"We firmly believe a negotiated solution is the appropriate way forward and the San Jose Accord is the best solution," said US State Department spokesman Ian Kelly, announcing the measure.

During a visit Honduras, Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon expressed "great concern" at the human rights situation there since soldiers put Zelaya on a plane and flew him out of the country in a bloodless coup on June 28.

"We are concerned about the situation being experienced in Honduras as concerns the violation of basic rights, such as life, and the physical, moral and psychological integrity" of citizens, he said.

Garzon, who was speaking after having met Honduran Supreme Court officials in Tegucigalpa, also said he had heard testimony about several serious cases.

They included accounts of injuries, torture, abuse, violence against women and attacks on freedom of expression under Micheletti's government.

The Honduran crisis erupted after the Supreme Court ruled that Zelaya had violated the law by calling a referendum on the constitutional limit of one term in office.

The OAS has suspended Honduras's membership from the regional body and governments around the region have refused to recognize the interim administration.

The official aim of the two-day visit was to convince Tegucigalpa to accept a proposal by conflict mediator and Costa Rican President Oscar Arias to reinstate Zelaya as president.

The United States, which has strong military and commercial ties with Honduras, strongly backed the latest crisis mission, saying it supplied an aircraft that took the delegation to Honduras.