Dominican president says Honduran meeting delayed

AP News
Posted: Dec 13, 2009 6:03 PM

A planned meeting between the ousted and incoming leaders of Honduras to solve that nation's political crisis has been delayed, Dominican President Leonel Fernandez said Sunday.

Fernandez previously said he expected the ousted President Manuel Zelaya and President-elect Porfirio Lobo to meet in the Caribbean nation's capital on Monday _ implying that Zelaya would be able to leave the Brazilian Embassy in Honduras where he has taken refuge for nearly three months.

But Fernandez issued a statement on Sunday saying the interim Honduran government has not granted Zelaya safe passage out of Honduras without being arrested on charges of treason and abuse of authority for repeatedly ignoring court orders to drop plans for a referendum on rewriting the constitution.

"The conversation ... will have to be postponed until the de facto government creates the conditions for President Zelaya to leave and sustain this dialogue, as is his desire," Fernandez's office said in an official statement.

The statement says the interim government would only allow Zelaya to leave the Brazilian Embassy, where he has taken shelter in Tegucigalpa, as a "political refugee."

The interim government of Roberto Micheletti took over after Zelaya was removed by the army in late June and it is due to hand over power to Lobo in late January. It has taken a hard line on dealings with Zelaya while Lobo has expressed hopes of solving the standoff that has isolated Honduras from many of the hemisphere's governments.

Zelaya representative Rasel Tome said Saturday that the ousted leader had no plans to leave Honduras this weekend. Zelaya has thanked Fernandez for seeking to arrange a meeting but he has never confirmed that talks with Lobo would take place.

The interim government says it has not received a petition from Zelaya or the Dominican Republic asking that Zelaya be granted safe passage to leave the country.

Fernandez and his representatives could not be reached. The three-term Dominican leader often positions himself as a Latin American peacemaker.

In 2008 he stood proudly by as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Colombia's Alvaro Uribe embraced during a Santo Domingo summit, ending a standoff in which the countries were massing troops on their shared border.

But other diplomatic forays have been less successful, including a pair of failed attempts to secure the Dominican Republic a temporary seat on the U.N. Security Council.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Milton Mateo said Saturday that Honduras would grant Zelaya safe passage to any country outside Central America that offers him asylum.

However, the interim government refused last week to grant Zelaya safe passage to Mexico until the ousted leader conceded he was no longer president. Zelaya rejected that condition.

Mexico had sent a plane to pick up Zelaya, but Honduran authorities diverted the flight to neighboring El Salvador.


Associated Press writer Ramon Alamanzar in Santo Domingo and David McFadden in San Juan, Puerto Rico, contributed to this report.