US diplomat in Honduras trying to revive pact

AP News
Posted: Nov 10, 2009 10:04 PM

A senior U.S. diplomat flew in Tuesday to try to revive a U.S.-brokered pact between Honduras' deposed president and the coup-imposed government ahead of elections this month.

Ousted President Manuel Zelaya declared the accord a failure last week when interim President Roberto Micheletti announced the creation of a national unity government even though Zelaya had not proposed any candidates.

Time is running out for a solution, with less than three weeks until the election. Zelaya is urging the international community not to recognize the outcome of the Nov. 29 presidential election. The Organization of American States said Tuesday it would not send election monitors unless the political impasse is resolved first.

The newly arrived U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Craig Kelly, who helped broker the pact two weeks ago, said he came to Tegucigalpa to help advance the implementation of the accord.

"There is an accord and we want it to advance because we think it is important for the country and the region. It's urgent and we have to advance," Kelly said after meeting with Zelaya at the Brazilian Embassy, where the ousted president has been holed up since sneaking back into the country Sept. 21.

Kelly talked first with Micheletti. The interim leader's negotiator, Vilma Morales, said Kelly told Micheletti that "the important thing for the government of the United States and the international community is for things to continue the framework of the agreement."

Washington initially joined other Western Hemisphere countries in warning that they would not recognize the elections if Zelaya was not restored to the presidency. But after brokering the pact, U.S. diplomats indicated Washington would support the elections, which had been scheduled before the June 28 coup, as long the deal was implemented.

The deal, signed more than a week ago, calls for a unity government to be installed and for the Honduran Congress to vote on whether to restore Zelaya to the presidency.

Congressional leaders say they are waiting for an opinion from prosecutors and the Supreme Court, which ordered Zelaya's arrest before the coup for refusing to drop plans for a referendum on constitutional change that the court had ruled illegal. Legislative leaders have indicated Congress might not vote on Zelaya's reinstatement until after the elections.

Congressman Carlos Lara Watson told reporters Tuesday that National Human Rights Commissioner Ramon Custodio had turned in a report outlining "all the complaints that he, as human rights commissioner, has filed" regarding Zelaya and his administration. He did not provide details of the report.

Zelaya accuses Micheletti of maneuvering to stay in power by naming the unity government before Congress voted.

But Micheletti said that he named the new government to meet a deadline imposed by the pact and that Zelaya failed to submit a list of proposed members.

In a letter to OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza, Micheletti insisted the pact was being fulfilled and the elections should be recognized.

Insulza said the OAS would not send observers under the current circumstances.

"There are no negotiations under way. So, from a political point of view, the conditions are not there to send an electoral observation commission," Insulza said during an OAS meeting in Washington.

Morales said the interim government has asked the OAS to keep supporting the accord they helped mediate.

"We have told them that the OAS can't back down because it confirmed and offered its commitment to respect whatever we Honduras decide," Morales said.

Meanwhile, two homicides stoked tensions in Honduras. Gunmen killed the brother of a former president on Tuesday, a day after assailants fatally shot the mayor of the central city of Jocon.

There has been a series of shooting attacks on public officials. Honduran authorities say they are investigating, but there is no indication yet the attacks are related to the strife over the coup.

Honduras has one of the highest homicide rates in Latin America, with 7,235 people killed in the country of 7.7 million last year, much of it related to the drug trade.