- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday that Costa Rican President Oscar Arias has agreed to mediate the escalating political crisis in Honduras and that the rivals for that country’s leadership have agreed.

Mrs. Clinton, who met with ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya at the State Department, said she urged him not to attempt another return to his country “in the face of opposition” until the negotiations have a chance to work.

Mr. Zelaya tried to land in Honduras late Sunday, but the runway was blocked by troops loyal to interim President Roberto Micheletti. The confrontation led to violent clashes between supporters of the two leaders in which at least one person was killed.

Mr. Zelaya was forced out of Honduras June 28 because of what his opponents said would have been an illegal attempt to call a referendum to allow him to stay in office for another four-year term. The Obama administration, as well as the Organization of American States, condemned the apparent coup and called for the “full restoration of democracy.”

Mr. Arias, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for helping to end the civil war in El Salvador, will conduct the negotiations in Costa Rica, Mrs. Clinton said.

“He is the natural person to assume this role,” she told reporters at the State Department.

The secretary declined to say what specific arrangements may be made during the talks. In private, officials said that one option is for Mr. Zelaya to complete his term, which expires in January, but agree not to seek to prolong it.

The crisis has brought together some strange bedfellows, including the United States and Venezuela, whose anti-U.S. leader, Hugo Chavez, has been close to Mr. Zelaya.

In Moscow, President Obama said he supports “the restoration of the democratically elected president of Honduras, even though he has strongly opposed American policies.”

“America cannot and should not seek to impose any system of government on any other country, nor would we presume to choose which party or individual should run a country,” he said.

“We do so not because we agree with him,” Mr. Obama said of Mr. Zelaya. “We do so because we respect the universal principle that people should choose their own leaders, whether they are leaders we agree with or not.”

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