Negotiators attempt for consensus

TEGUCIGALPA: Negotiators narrowed their differences in talks on ending Honduras political crisis, but not on the make-or-break issue of reinstating deposed President Manuel Zelaya, both sides said.

Negotiators were racing to meet a Thursday deadline imposed by Zelaya for an agreement to resolve a crisis that erupted with his ouster in a June 28 coup.

"We have now started talks on the most critical point (reinstatement) and we are expecting an answer tomorrow Wednesday," said Mayra Mejia, a lead negotiator for Zelaya.

Former judge Vilma Morales, who is negotiating for interim president Roberto Micheletti, said "we have started talking about the main point. ... And Wednesday we will keep talking about weighing different scenarios and alternatives."

So far, the sides have agreed that there would be a unity government; no amnesties; Zelaya would end efforts to rewrite the constitution and November 29 elections would not be pushed forward.

They also have agreed that a commission would be put in place to monitor implementation of the deal; that the military would come under the authority of the electoral commission until elections are held; and that the international community would be asked to drop sanctions against Honduras that followed the coup.

"We are feeling optimistic and hope to deliver to the country a political and legal settlement that is acceptable," Zelaya negotiator Victor Meza, who stressed that "really nothing has been settled until (reinstatement) has been signed off on."

Zelaya, who antagonized conservatives by aligning himself with Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, was kicked out of the country at gunpoint in his pajamas in the June 28 military-led coup.

He snuck back into Honduras nearly three months later to face off against the Micheletti regime, which wants Zelaya arrested on charges that include treason and corruption.

He has been holed up in the Brazilian embassy since September 21, surrounded by riot police and soldiers.

Following the coup, US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for Zelaya's return to office, and suspended financial aid programs with Honduras and canceled the US visas of top regime officials.