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Page last updated at 08:47 GMT, Friday, 24 July 2009 09:47 UK

Honduras leader starts return bid

Honduran President Manuel Zelaya speaking in managua
Manuel Zelaya has repeatedly insisted he will return home

The ousted Honduran president has arrived at a Nicaraguan town just south of the border from where he plans a second attempt to return home.

President Manuel Zelaya has been in exile for a little under a month.

From Esteli, 25 miles (40km) from the border, he said he would try to enter the country as early as Saturday.

The interim government has vowed to arrest him if he sets foot in Honduras, as mediation talks failed. Mr Zelaya urged soldiers to ignore orders.

"Don't aim your rifles at the representatives of the people or at the people," he said during a news conference from the hotel.

"I am on my way to Honduras, and I hope most Hondurans can overcome the checkpoints, that they head to the border, and that they do not fear the soldiers," he added.

Relief map of the Nicaragua and Honduras border

According to AFP news agency, the country's interim government shut its southern border with Nicaragua on Friday in a bid to prevent Mr Zelaya's return.

Mr Zelaya, who is accompanied by Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro, made an attempt to return home on 5 July, but his plane was prevented from landing when the Honduran military blocked the runway.

Mr Zelaya was exiled on 28 June after a crisis erupted over his attempts to hold a vote on changing the constitution.

'Clock ticking'

The ousted leader was attempting a second return after delegations from the two sides failed to reach agreement at talks in Costa Rica mediated by President Oscar Arias.

Mr Arias produced a detailed plan to facilitate Mr Zelaya's return, which include proposals for:

  • Mr Zelaya to return to the presidency on Friday and serve out his term which ends in January 2010
  • a government of national reconciliation to be formed by 27 July
  • an amnesty to be granted covering political crimes committed during this crisis
  • a truth commission to be set up to investigate events in the run-up to Mr Zelaya's removal
  • presidential elections to be held a month early, on 28 October.

President Arias, a Nobel peace laureate, said this was his third and final attempt to mediate a peaceful solution.

Opponents of Mr Zelaya march in Tegucigalpa, 22 July, 2009
There have been protests both for and against Mr Zelaya's return

Delegates of the interim government reiterated they would not reinstate Mr Zelaya as president but said they would present the Arias plan to Congress.

But since it was Congress that approved the ousting of Mr Zelaya, the move may prove to be of limited importance, says BBC Central America correspondent Stephen Gibbs.

If no agreement were reached, Mr Arias suggested that the Organisation of American States (OAS) take over the negotiations.

The OAS, along with other international groupings, has been quite clear that Mr Zelaya is the legitimate president, and should be reinstated immediately.

'No return'

The crisis was triggered when Mr Zelaya sought to hold a non-binding public consultation to ask people whether they supported efforts to change the constitution.

Critics interpreted that as an attempt to remove the current one-term limit on serving as president.

The Supreme Court declared his attempt to hold a vote illegal under the Honduran constitution and the military was sent to arrest him. He was flown into exile on 28 June.

Carlos Lopez, foreign minister in the military-backed interim government, told reporters in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, on Wednesday that there was no chance of Mr Zelaya returning as president.

"This hypothesis of a possible return of Mr Zelaya to occupy the presidency is completely ruled out."

Speaking in Managua, Mr Zelaya said: "The coup leaders are totally refusing my reinstatement."

"By refusing to sign, [the talks] have failed."



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