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Page last updated at 04:52 GMT, Saturday, 18 July 2009 05:52 UK

Zelaya 'to return if talks fail'

Ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya in Managua, Nicaragua (17 July 2009)
Manuel Zelaya says he remains the democratically elected leader

Ousted Honduran leader Manuel Zelaya has said he will return to the country whether or not a deal is reached to end the political crisis.

Mr Zelaya's wife said midnight on Saturday was the deadline for a deal to be reached at talks in Costa Rica between the country's political rivals.

Earlier, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez had said Mr Zelaya was due to return home "in the coming hours".

The interim government has vowed to arrest Mr Zelaya if he does go back.

They prevented Mr Zelaya's earlier attempted homecoming on 5 July.

Representatives of Mr Zelaya and the interim government that was appointed after he was ousted in a coup last month are preparing to meet for a fresh round of talks in Costa Rica, mediated by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias.

Mr Zelaya's wife, Xiomara Castro, said that midnight on Saturday was "the deadline" for an agreement on the country's future to be reached.

"Time runs out tomorrow," she said.

She added that the conditions were right for her husband's return and the talks "can't continue for three or four months".

"He has to come back to the country. He has to come publicly. He is not a criminal and does not need to be hiding," she said.

"All the diplomatic avenues are nearly exhausted. We hope there is a decision tomorrow."

'Support talks'

On Friday, Mr Chavez said Mr Zelaya was returning to Honduras "in the next few hours".

"Zelaya will enter Honduras. Let's see what the gorillas will do," he said, referring to the coup leaders.

Mr Chavez was speaking in La Paz, following talks with Bolivian President Evo Morales, Ecuador's Rafael Correa and Paraguay's Fernando Lugo.

But journalists in Nicaragua, where Mr Zelaya has been staying, said he was still in the capital, Managua, and there was no indication that he was leaving.

The US has called on Honduras' regional neighbours to support the Costa Rica talks.

"No country in the region should encourage any action that would potentially increase the risk of violence either in Honduras or in surrounding countries," said State Department spokesman P J Crowley.

'Final battle'

Supporters of ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya at a roadblock in Tegucigalpa (17 July 2009)
Supporters of Mr Zelaya have blocked roads in the capital

Mr Zelaya told Venezuelan television on Thursday that he was getting ready to return to his country from neighbouring Nicaragua.

"I am preparing various alternatives: by air, by land, and others," he told Venezuelan television.

The foreign minister in the deposed government, Patricia Rodas, said Mr Zelaya was returning to wage a "final battle" against those who ousted him.

On Friday, thousands of Zelaya supporters blocked key Honduran roads for a second day, in preparation for his possible return.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said the interim government had deployed forces on the border with his country.

"I don't know why they are so terrorised by President Zelaya that they have put tanks and cannons, artillery, mortars, anti-aircraft guns to shoot President Zelaya down if he tries to enter by plane," he said.

Interim Honduran President Roberto Micheletti took over at the head of a military-backed government after Mr Zelaya was bundled out of the country on 28 June.

Mr Zelaya was forced out amid a dispute with the country's Congress and the courts over his plans to hold a non-binding public consultation to ask people whether they supported moves to change the constitution.

Mr Zelaya's critics said the move was aimed at removing the current one-term limit on serving as president, so paving the way for his possible re-election.



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