Honduran rivals signal new bid to solve crisis

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Honduras’ ousted president and de facto leader gave signs they would try again on Saturday to form a unity government to guide the country out of a four-month crisis after the process collapsed a day earlier.

Supporters of Honduras ousted President Manuel Zelaya display the national flag and Zelaya's photograph during a protest outside the National Congress building in Tegucigalpa November 6, 2009. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas

President Manuel Zelaya, a refugee in his own country in the Brazilian Embassy, early on Friday declared dead a pact to end the crisis, while de facto leader Roberto Micheletti said he would form a new government without Zelaya’s participation.

The United States and the Organization of American States on Friday pushed the two sides to try again, while Latin American presidents urged Zelaya’s re-instatement, which has been the sticking point of the accord.

In the latest twist in the long saga, Micheletti’s government said it would suspend installing a new cabinet to give Zelaya the weekend to name members to it.

On the other side, a negotiator for Zelaya said representatives from the two sides would meet on Saturday to continue the negotiating process.

The poor Central American country, which exports bananas, coffee and clothes, holds presidential elections on November 29.

But if Zelaya and Micheletti cannot resolve their standoff, a newly elected president might not be able to win back diplomatic recognition and vital financial aid that were cut off to punish the country over the coup.

“We’ve possibly found a road. There’s a pre-agreement, but I don’t want to give more details,” Jorge Reina, a negotiator for Zelaya, told a local radio station. “There’s a new path.”

“Micheletti ratified he recognized the importance of a waiting period during the weekend to form the unity and reconciliation government,” his office said in a statement.

Zelaya was forced into exile by the army on June 28 after the Supreme Court issued an arrest order saying he violated the constitution by planning a referendum on possibly changing it.

Congress placed Micheletti in the presidency but his government has not been recognized by other countries in what has become Central America’s worst political crisis in 20 years.

Zelaya said the hard-won U.S.-brokered pact from October 30 was meant to restore him in power..

However the United States, Honduras’ top trading partner, seemed to weaken his position by saying it would recognize the November 29 elections just on the basis of the signing of the accord.

Under the pact, Congress was supposed to vote on whether or not Zelaya would be reinstated. But there was no deadline given and lawmakers dragged their feet this week.

When Zelaya saw he would not be at the head of a unity and reconciliation cabinet he refused to put forward names.

Micheletti had announced the new cabinet late on Thursday.

Zelaya sneaked back into the country in September and has been living in the Brazilian Embassy ever since. On Friday he told advisers holed up with him that the process was so broken down that most of them should leave the embassy.

Writing by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Doina Chiacu