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Fidel Castro says Honduras talks a US stall tactic

HAVANA, July 16 (Reuters) - Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro said the United States is backing the coup leaders in Honduras and that the U.S.-backed peace talks in Costa Rica are a ploy to keep them in power.

Castro, in a column published on the Internet on Thursday, said talks are a stalling tactic aimed at exhausting opposition to the ousting of President Manuel Zelaya on June 28.

“It is obvious that each day of delay has a cost for the constitutional president and tends to dilute the extraordinary international support he has received,” Castro wrote.

“The Yankee maneuver does not increase the possibilities of peace, but completely to the contrary, it diminishes them and the danger of violence grows, ” he said, referring to the

United States.”

The United States has condemned the military takeover and President Barack Obama has said the democratically elected Zelaya should be returned to power. The United States said it proposed the Costa Rica talks as a way of finding a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

Castro said U.S. ambassadors in Honduras and other Central American countries knew of the coup before it took place and have backed it. He repeated a previous accusation that a U.S. military base in Honduras is helping the coup.

Envoys representing Zelaya and interim leader Roberto Micheletti met last week and are scheduled to meet again on Saturday, with Costa Rican President Oscar Arias mediating.

Micheletti has said Zelaya was deposed lawfully because he violated the constitution by seeking to remove limits on presidential terms in office.

Zelaya has said he was toppled by Honduran elites intent on seizing power in the impoverished country. Zelaya angered his country’s ruling elite and military by increasingly allying himself with leftist Venezuelan President Hugh Chavez, who is also a friend of Castro.

“The correct thing in this moment is to demand that the United States government cease its intervention, stop its military support to the coup leaders and remove its (military) force from Honduras,” Castro said.

Castro, 82, ruled Cuba for 49 years before his brother, Raul Castro, replaced him as president in February 2008.

He writes columns regularly for Cuba’s state-run media, which has covered the Honduras crisis extensively.

Reporting by Jeff Franks; Editing by Doina Chiacu