OAS fails to clear Honduras crisis

TEGUCIGALPA: An OAS-led delegation to Honduras seeking a way out of the political crisis here said Tuesday it had failed to negotiate a resolution with the de facto government that would see the Central American nation returned to democracy.

The group of foreign ministers from the Americas ran into staunch opposition from government led by Roberto Micheletti, which stood its ground and said it would not cede power to President Manuel Zelaya who was ousted in a military coup two months ago.

"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 on the part of the gentleman (Micheletti)," the delegation said in a statement, referring to July peace talks mediated by Costa Rica.

The foreign ministers from Argentina, Canada, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Mexico and Panama, led by the head of the Organization of American States, held a press conference following a two-hour meeting with Micheletti in the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa.

"The committee reiterates the need for the rapid return to democratic normalcy... given the imminent start of the anticipated electoral campaign on September 1," the group said in the statement read out by Costa Rican Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno.

Micheletti told the delegation his new government would not be bossed around.

"We're not afraid of an embargo," he told the visitors headed by OAS secretary general Jose Miguel Insulza. "We can go on without your support."

Micheletti's refusal to budge came as the United States sought to step up pressure on his government by announcing that it would halt most visa service in Honduras as of Wednesday.

"In support of this mission and as a consequence of the de facto regime's reluctance to sign the San Jose Accord, the US Department of State is conducting a full review of our visa policy in Honduras," department spokesman Ian Kelly said in Washington.

"We firmly believe a negotiated solution is the appropriate way forward and the San Jose Accord is the best solution," Kelly said in a statement.

The Honduran crisis erupted June 28 when soldiers put Zelaya on a plane and flew him out of the country after the Supreme Court ruled he had violated the law by calling a referendum on term limits.

The OAS suspended Honduras 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 reinstall Zelaya as president.

But Micheletti, who had initially refused to receive a delegation that included Insulza, scolded the Chilean diplomat.

"Insulza has come to our country to boss us around, and nobody is allowed to do that," Micheletti said.

"We're not afraid of anyone," he declared, adding that his country would adhere to its plan of holding elections in November.

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.