Carter Urges Resolution To Honduran Crisis

By: (CNN)
By: (CNN)
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (CNN) -- Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has contacted the de facto president of Honduras to urge a resolution to the crisis in the Central American country, both sides said Thursday.

Former President Jimmy Carter (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (CNN) -- Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has contacted the de facto president of Honduras to urge a resolution to the crisis in the Central American country, both sides said Thursday.

"President Carter has been in touch with the Honduran government to express his concern about the current situation," spokeswoman Deanna Congileo said via e-mail. "He is not offering himself as a mediator, but rather supporting the mediation of (Costa Rican) President Oscar Arias and the Organization of American States mission."

De facto President Roberto Micheletti said Carter had called late Wednesday.

Micheletti said he told the former U.S. president he was "willing to enter into dialogue, anywhere and at any time, to try to find a resolution to the present situation."

But he insisted that deposed Honduras President Jose Manuel Zelaya publicly recognize the "sanctity" of elections scheduled for November.

Zelaya told CNN Carter had not called him.

Zelaya was ousted in a military-backed coup on June 28. He secretly returned to Honduras this week and is taking refuge in the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa, the capital city.

The United States and Brazil have said they support dialogue between the two sides centered on the San Jose Accord negotiated by Arias. That deal calls for Zelaya to be restored to office.

Micheletti denied Wednesday that his government turned off the electricity at the Brazilian Embassy, and said that the people inside were free to come and go.

Honduran forces also will not enter the embassy compound, Micheletti said in an interview with CNN en Español.

Zelaya told CNN the military forces outside the embassy played loud music and made other noise at night, making it difficult for him to sleep.

The ousted president still faces arrest and charges for violating the constitution if he leaves the safe haven of the embassy, Micheletti said.

"President Zelaya should present himself before the tribunals of justice in our country where he has charges against him," Micheletti said.

"I think that what the whole world should understand about this country is that there is no immunity for anyone -- for anyone," the de facto president told CNN en Español. "And, no one can be above the law."

The Supreme Court issued the arrest warrant.

A nationwide curfew was lifted Wednesday, but a security cordon remained in the area around the embassy.

Micheletti said that the police were there because the people inside the embassy requested the protection, and said, "We are not impeding the exit nor the entrance of absolutely anybody."

Zelaya's announced return has reignited a stand-off between the two men, who both claim to be the leader of Honduras.

Brazil -- which now finds itself involved because of its embassy -- wants an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting to discuss the situation, the official Brazilian news agency reported.

In another development, Micheletti said he is willing to meet anywhere with Zelaya so long as Zelaya agrees to abide by presidential elections scheduled for November 29.

The de facto government argues that Zelaya was not removed in a coup, but in a constitutional transfer of power.

Amnesty International Wednesday denounced "a sharp rise in police beatings, mass arrests of demonstrators and intimidation of human rights defenders in Honduras since the June coup d'etat," and warned that "fundamental rights and the rule of law in the Central American nation are in grave jeopardy."

The organization said police fired tear gas Tuesday at a building housing a prominent human rights organization. Around 100 people, including women and children, were inside, Amnesty International said. Many were there to denounce what they said were incidents of police abuse at the demonstration outside the Brazilian Embassy, the rights group said.

It was still not publicly known how Zelaya got into the country and he declined to provide details, telling CNN en Español on Tuesday only that it was a 15- to 16-hour trip he took "with the help of Hondurans."

Zelaya, of the Liberal Party, won the November 2005 presidential elections -- the country's seventh consecutive democratic election -- with less than a 4 percentage-point margin of victory, the smallest margin ever in Honduran electoral history, according to the U.S. State Department.

Zelaya's campaign theme was "citizen power," and he vowed to increase transparency and combat narcotrafficking, while maintaining economic stability. The Liberal Party won 62 of the 128 congressional seats, just short of an absolute majority, the State Department says.

Honduras relies heavily on a narrow range of exports, notably bananas and coffee. It the second poorest country in Central America, with an extraordinarily unequal distribution of income and high unemployment, according to the CIA World Factbook.

--CNN's John Zarrella in Tegucigalpa, Honduras contributed to this report.

The-CNN-Wire/Atlanta
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