TEGUCIGALPA - Honduras' de facto ruler called on Wednesday for new talks to solve the country's political crisis and a source said he might be willing to allow the return of ousted President Manuel Zelaya under strict conditions.
Roberto Micheletti, named by Congress as president after Zelaya was toppled in a coup last month, asked for a special envoy to come to Honduras to cooperate in the start of dialogue in our country.
Under pressure from the United States to reverse the coup, Micheletti softened a previous hardline tone and said many Hondurans could play a role in solving the crisis.
This dialogue, this effective communication should include all parts of civil society, our churches, professional groups, student groups, business associations, media, political parties, he said in a statement read out on television.
Micheletti asked mediator Costa Rican President Oscar Arias to send Enrique Iglesias, a former president of the Inter-American Development Bank, to Honduras to breathe life into crisis talks that were all but dead.
Washington has demanded Zelaya's reinstatement and on Tuesday revoked diplomatic visas for four members of Micheletti's administration.
Micheletti has often said the government, Supreme Court and Congress were all firmly opposed to Zelaya's reinstatement, and that it could never happen, but his tone may be changing.
A source with close connections to the de facto government said Micheletti might now be willing to consider Zelaya's return if given assurances that the ousted president does not try to derail democracy.
Micheletti wants Arias to send someone of international stature to help convince Hondurans of a plan to end the crisis that included Zelaya coming back to office, the source said, adding that the plan would need to be fine tuned.
Because, as it stands, the proposal would be rejected across the board by the powers that be in the country, the source said. He is saying to Arias, 'Help me convince my people,' he said.
The Honduran Supreme Court, which ordered the army to oust Zelaya on June 28, is due to rule this week on Arias' proposal that Zelaya be allowed back to serve out the rest of his time, which ends early next year.
A leftist ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Zelaya upset the court and many in Congress by trying to hold a referendum to change the constitution. Critics say he was trying to extend his mandate, but he denies that.
The president said from exile in Nicaragua on Wednesday that he was confident he would return, but made no reference to any imminent deal.
There's no fixed date. Pressure is being put on for the accord, he told journalists.
Micheletti's government had shown every sign of determination to hold out until November presidential elections, gambling that the world will accept the new order after the polls.
Honduran political analyst Juan Ramon Martinez said Micheletti might be trying to float a more flexible image to the outside world while entrenching his position inside Honduras, where there have been large marches in favor of keeping Zelaya out.
But if the United States, Honduras' biggest trading partner and an important military ally, were to impose more sanctions, some in Honduras might begin to feel the cost of holding out was too high.
(Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell in Washington, Marco Aquino, Gabriela Donoso, Claudia Parsons in Honduras, Miguel Angel Gutierrez in Costa Rica and Ivan Castro in Nicaragua; Editing by Kieran Murray)