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OAS will send 6 foreign ministers to Honduras

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — The Organization of American States stepped up its pressure Friday on Honduras' de facto government, announcing that it's sending six foreign ministers here Tuesday to press for the return of ousted President Manuel Zelaya.

Carlos Sosa, who was Zelaya's ambassador to the OAS, called the visit "the last chance to negotiate a peaceful solution" to the five-week political crisis before widespread violence erupts in Honduras.

Street protests in the wake of the June 28 coup have left as many as 10 people dead.

"What happened in Honduras is a threat to democracy not only in Honduras but throughout the Americas," Sosa said by telephone from Washington.

He noted that the Washington-based OAS had voted unanimously for de facto President Roberto Micheletti to give way to Zelaya.

Micheletti said Friday in Honduras that he welcomed the OAS delegation.

"I want them to know the reality of the situation in Honduras," Micheletti said. "They'll come to see what's happening."

The ministers will come from Argentina, Canada, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

The visit will come at a time when Zelaya's only hope to return to power seems to depend on the OAS pressuring Micheletti to adopt a plan he's thus far resisted.

Named after Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, its broker, the plan would restore Zelaya for the final six months of his term, limit his powers and give amnesty to anyone on either side who's accused of committing illegal acts just before or during the coup.

Zelaya has accepted the plan.

Some powerful Hondurans have voiced cautious support for the plan but question whether Zelaya would abide by the restrictions on his power.

They think that Zelaya violated the law in the days leading up to the coup.

A State Department letter this week reinforced that concern and backed away from its demand that Zelaya be returned to power. The letter condemned the coup but added, "We also recognize that President Zelaya's insistence on undertaking provocative actions contributed to the polarization of Honduran society and led to a confrontation that unleashed the events that led to his removal."

Micheletti and his supporters think that Zelaya became a puppet of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and was bent on trying to change the constitution to remain in office beyond Jan. 27, when he was supposed to step down for his successor.

"This man is crazy," Micheletti said of Chavez.

Zelaya and his supporters say that the military forcibly removed him because he challenged the oligarchy's interests by raising the minimum wage, ending school registration fees and giving free electricity to the poor.

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