Hopes for a quick resolution to the post-coup leadership crisis in Honduras have dimmed, with the two rivals fighting over the presidency refusing to meet.
They emerged from talks in Costa Rica showing no signs of budging from hard-line positions. Negotiating teams from both sides huddled behind closed doors again in the Costa Rican capital yesterday, but the head of the Organisation of American States (OAS) said there was a "lack of willingness to discuss things".
The chief mediator, Costa Rica's President Oscar Arias, was equally glum earlier, saying: "We have no illusions. This may take longer than we imagined." He hosted separate meetings on Thursday with the ousted Honduran leader Manuel Zelaya and Roberto Micheletti, the man who replaced him after the 28 June coup. Mr Arias, who won the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize for helping Central Americans resolve their civil wars, had hoped to bring the rivals together for their first direct meeting since the coup, but that was not to be. "Each one put as a condition that the other not be there, that it wasn't the moment to meet," said the Costa Rican Information Minister Mayi Antillon.
Both Mr Zelaya and Mr Micheletti left Costa Rica after their meetings with the mediator, leaving low-level teams behind to continue the discussions. The coup crisis has become one of the biggest tests so far for the Obama administration in Latin America and the OAS secretary general Jose Miguel Insulza expressed concern that if the Honduran crisis was not resolved, it could leave the door open for other coups in Latin America. On returning to Honduras, Mr Micheletti said he was ready to see Mr Zelaya come back – "but to be sent directly to the courts", referring to the 18 charges against him, including treason and usurping public functions.