Hondurans agree on constitution; no deal on Zelaya

Published October 14, 2009 7:01AM (EDT)

Honduras' opposing factions agreed Tuesday on nearly every point of a pact to end the political crisis except the central issue: ousted President Manuel Zelaya's return to the presidency.

Negotiators said Zelaya's camp has promised that if he returns to power, he will drop his efforts to change the Honduran constitution, an initiative that led to his June 28 ouster.

Juan Barahona, a Zelaya supporter who has led street protests against the coup, walked out of the talks Tuesday in protest of the agreement on the constitution. He vowed to continue fighting for a new constitution on his own even if Zelaya is restored to office.

Critics say Zelaya was seeking to extend his time in office by removing a constitutional ban on presidential re-election, as his ally Hugo Chavez has done in Venezuela. Zelaya denied that was his intention, but soldiers flew him into exile at gunpoint after he ignored court orders to drop a referendum to ask Hondurans if they wanted an assembly to rewrite the constitution.

Zelaya sneaked back into Honduras on Sept. 21 and is holed up at the Brazilian Embassy. The United States and other countries have suspended aid to the Central American country to pressure the interim government to restore Zelaya.

Vilma Morales, a spokeswoman for the coup-installed government, said the two sides began discussing the subject of Zelaya's return to power Tuesday and would continue the debate Wednesday.

"Tomorrow we will continue discussing different scenarios and alternatives," Morales said.

Mayra Mejia, a spokeswoman for Zelaya negotiators, emphasized that the ousted leader's return to power is not negotiable. "The ball is in their court. We wait their response tomorrow," she said.

Morales said the two sides have agreed on every other aspect of the pact, first proposed by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias. One point includes a commission to monitor that both sides stick to their part of the agreement.

Morales gave few other details. However, Barahona said the two sides had agreed to renounce amnesty from prosecution. The Arias plan had proposed amnesty for both the coup perpetrators and Zelaya, who faces abuse of power charges stemming from his efforts to change the constitution.

By Juan Carlos Llorca

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