TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras - Showing more flexibility, Honduras' interim government on Tuesday backed the appointment of a high-profile mediator for negotiations and softened its stance on prosecuting a president ousted by a coup.
Roberto Micheletti, who took over after the June 28 coup that toppled President Manuel Zelaya and has resisted international pressure to reinstate him, applauded the announcement that Costa Rican President Oscar Arias has agreed to mediate efforts to end the standoff.
Arias "is a man with a lot of credibility in the world," Micheletti told HRN radio. "We are open to dialogue. We want to be heard."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced that Arias would take part after meeting privately in Washington with Zelaya, who was seized by Honduras' army and flown out of the country after the courts and Congress accused him of violating the constitution.
Zelaya - who flies to Costa Rica today - said he too has accepted Arias' appointment.
Clinton said she was "heartened" that Zelaya had agreed to the mediation and would not again try to force his way back to Honduras as he did over the weekend.
The interim Honduran leader said he would send a delegation soon to Costa Rica - a reversal from past days, when he said he would not negotiate until "things are normal." Arias won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for efforts to help end Central America's civil wars.
The meeting "doesn't mean that Zelaya will be allowed to return," Micheletti said. He later told a news conference that the dialogue with Arias should "start from the understanding that Zelaya's return is not open to negotiation."
But overall, his tone was less belligerent than in recent days, when officials promised to arrest Zelaya on charges including treason as soon as he sets foot on Honduran soil. And Supreme Court spokesman Danilo Izaguirre said the government "could push for political amnesty in favor of Zelaya and others involved in the problem."
Izaguirre said that decision would be up to lawmakers and it would be for political crimes only, leaving the possibility of arrest on 18 criminal charges.
A senior U.S. official said one possible compromise would let the ousted president serve out his remaining six months in office with limited and clearly defined powers while Zelaya would drop his aspirations for a constitutional change that might allow him to run for another term. The official agreed to discuss the situation only if not quoted by name because of the sensitive nature of the diplomatic exchanges.
"The possibility of resolving the conflict is starting to form," Rodolfo Irias, a National Party congressman who formed part of a delegation that arrived in Washington, told HRN radio.
In another sign of eased tensions, civil aviation chief Alfredo San Martin said the capital's airport reopened for commercial flights on Tuesday - reversing an earlier announcement that it would be closed until Friday.
Officials had closed the airport and blocked the runway after Zelaya attempted to fly home on Sunday and police clashed with thousands of protesters in front of the terminal. At least one person was shot to death.
Zelaya's wife, Xiomara, joined a march of about 2,000 supporters at a university in Tegucigalpa on Tuesday. She and her son have been staying at the U.S. Embassy, where she and her son, Hector, took refuge after soldiers escorted Zelaya out of the country in his pajamas.