TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Talks to resolve the Honduran political crisis deadlocked Friday over conflicting proposals for restoring ousted President Manuel Zelaya to office, dampening hopes for a resolution in internationally backed negotiations.
"The dialogue is in suspense ... until the other side adopts a reasonable stance," Zelaya told The Associated Press from the Brazilian Embassy, where took refuge after sneaking back into Honduras on Sept. 21. from his forced exile.
Zelaya's foreign minister said the talks had collapsed because of the coup-imposed government's intransigence. Moments later, however, a Zelaya spokesman said the deposed leader would give negotiations two more days to break an impasse over his return to power.
"We are willing to continue the dialogue," Ricardo Martinez, Zelaya's tourism minister and spokesman, said at a news conference in the Tegucigalpa hotel where talks are taking place.
Negotiators for interim President Roberto Micheletti also said talks would go on even though Micheletti rebuffed a proposal to allow the Honduran Congress to vote on whether Zelaya can return to power. Micheletti offered a counter-proposal that called for the Supreme Court to decide the matter, an idea immediately rejected by Zelaya.
"The proposal is completely unacceptable," said Victor Meza, a member of Zelaya's negotiating team.
Although Congress voted to back Zelaya's ouster, lawmakers have since said they would support any agreement that emerged from talks. There has been no such assurance from the Supreme Court, which had ordered Zelaya's arrest days before the coup. Instead of arresting him, soldiers flew Zelaya into exile at gunpoint on June 28.
The latest round of talks began last week when top diplomats from the United States and other countries flew to Honduras and made clear that Zelaya's reinstatement was the only way for the Central American country to regain international recognition.
The crisis has become a challenge for the administration of President Barack Obama, who has faced vocal criticism from some Republicans in Congress for supporting Zelaya, a leader distrusted by conservatives because of his friendship with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
Zelaya was ousted after he defied court orders to cancel a referendum to ask Hondurans if they wanted an assembly to rewrite the constitution. Critics feared Zelaya would use that process to extend his term in office by abolishing a ban on presidential re-election, as Chavez has done in Venezuela. Zelaya denies that was his plan.
Zelaya's foreign minister, Patricia Rodas, told Latin American leaders meeting in Bolivia that the talks had broken down. "The intransigence of the dictatorship led to the failure," she said, moments after Zelaya rejected Micheletti's counter-proposal.
But Martinez later said "the negotiations had been extended." A spokesman for the interim government, Rafael Pineda, also insisted talks would continue.
"The process of dialogue should not be suspended for any reason," Pineda said.