TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – Honduras' interim government backed off its refusal of a visit by foreign delegates aimed at resolving the country's political crisis.
The negotiators are welcome as long as Jose Miguel Insulza, head of the Organization of American States, participates only as an "observer," the Foreign Relations Ministry said in a statement Sunday.
The government of interim President Roberto Micheletti has objected to what it calls a "lack of objectivity" by Insulza — a vocal advocate of restoring President Manuel Zelaya to office after he was ousted in a June 28 coup.
The ministry said the visit — originally planned for Tuesday — will now be rescheduled for a date "that will be decided in the next two days."
The statement by the Foreign Relations Ministry came just hours after the government had postponed the visit, objecting to the inclusion of Insulza in the group.
The delegation organized by the OAS also includes the foreign ministers of Argentina, Canada, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.
It was not the first time that diplomatic efforts to resolve the coup appear to have been delayed or drawn out by the interim government. It has dallied over a proposed compromise plan presented by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, who served as mediator in the dispute, while rejecting the main point, Zelaya's reinstatement in office.
The Washington-based OAS, a long-established hemispheric body promoting democracy, development and legal cooperation in the Americas, named the delegation on Friday.
The group's mission is to try to persuade Micheletti to negotiate with international mediators, which Insulza described as a "continuation of Oscar Arias' work."
The interim government countered that Insulza not only insisted that he accompany the delegation but also failed to include foreign ministers who might be open to "reconsidering our position." Neither Insulza nor the OAS immediately commented.
From the beginning, Insulza and the OAS as a whole have harshly condemned the coup and said that any solution to the crisis must include Zelaya's restoration to office. The organization later voted to suspend Honduras from its ranks. The interim government, however, had already said it would quit the organization rather than meet its demands.
Despite the suspension of millions of dollars of U.S. aid and the threat of more sanctions, interim leaders have made clear they expect to hold out until the Nov. 29 elections. Coup backers hope the election will calm international demands to restore Zelaya, whose term ends Jan. 27.
Soldiers arrested Zelaya and flew him into exile in Costa Rica after he ignored a Supreme Court order to cancel a referendum asking Hondurans if they wanted a special assembly to rewrite the constitution.
Zelaya is constitutionally barred from seeking re-election. Opponents say his real motive for the referendum was to abolish term limits so he could run again. Zelaya denies that was his intention.
Micheletti, the courts and the military generals all insist no coup occurred because Zelaya was arrested on orders of the Supreme Court and replaced by an act of Congress.
The interim government acknowledges that sending Zelaya into exile wasn't legal, though it says that was necessary for his security and to prevent unrest. But it says everything else it did was according to the Honduran Constitution.