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Zelaya central to peace plans

THE chief negotiator in Honduran crisis talks yesterday proposed reinstating ousted president Manuel Zelaya at the head of a national reconciliation government, early elections and a general amnesty as a way out of a deadlock over a coup.

Many of the proposals made by Costa Rican president Oscar Arias at US-backed talks have already been rejected by one side or the other in the dispute over Honduras' June 28 military-backed coup, which has become a key test for democracy in Latin America and for US diplomacy.

"These agreements must be adopted as soon as possible because each day that goes by increases the weight on the shoulders of an innocent people," said the Costa Rican president.

Arias, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for helping end Central America's wars, said that under his plan Zelaya would return to Honduras' presidency but cede control of the armed forces to an electoral court a month before elections, to be held in October. The unity government would include representatives of Honduras' main political parties. Other points of the plan are an amnesty for all political crimes committed before and after the coup, and that Zelaya agree to not hold a referendum on retooling the constitution -- the proposal the sparked the coup.

There was no immediate reaction to the proposals from either Zelaya or the interim government of Roberto Micheletti.

The talks in Costa Rica's capital are taking place under extreme pressure after Zelaya issued an ultimatum that if he was not returned to the presidency by last night he will declare the talks a failure and return to Honduras to set up a parallel government. Micheletti has vowed to arrest him on arrival.

Delegates began arriving in San Jose early yesterday for the talks, which have the backing of the Obama administration, the Organisation of American States and much of the world community, though some leftist leaders have denounced them as a US-backed trap for Zelaya.

On Friday, Zelaya had appeared to reject any form of power-sharing government. Micheletti has rejected the idea of Zelaya returning to the presidency.

The ousted Honduran leader said the midnight deadline for his return to the presidency was not negotiable.

"If at that time, there is no resolution to that end, I will consider the negotiations in Costa Rica a failure," Zelaya said.

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