'Tensions high'

The Venezuelan president said earlier on Friday that Zelaya would return home "in the next few hours".

"Zelaya is going to enter Honduras, let's see what those thugs do," Hugo Chavez said in La Paz, the Bolivian capital, referring to the Honduran interim government.

The United States said it opposes any attempted return, fearing it could jeopardise reconciliation talks hosted by Oscar Arias, the Costa Rican president.

"We don't want people to take steps that in any way conflict or don't contribute positively to the Arias mediation efforts," said Robert Wood, the US state department spokesman.

"Tensions are very high ... we're trying to get people to really focus on how we can bring about that peaceful ... return to democratic and constitutional order."

Mediation efforts

Arias, who is due to host talks between delegations representing Zelaya and the country's de facto government on Saturday, said a deal must be reached.

"Zelaya is going to enter Honduras, let's see what those thugs do"

Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela

He said in a radio interview: "I am going to propose ... installing a government of national reconciliation, a coalition of key ministers such as of finance, security, the interior or government.

"I'll see if we can talk of amnesties and for whom."

A first round of talks in Costa Rica to reach a solution to the political crisis failed after Roberto Micheletti, Honduras' interim president, and Zelaya, left the negotiations without meeting each other.

Micheletti and Zelaya are unlikely to attend Saturday’s talks, with delegations representing them instead.

'Illegal' vote

Should Zelaya attempt to enter to Honduras, it will be his second effort to return home since he was deposed.

His first attempt on July 5 failed when military vehicles blocked the runway of Tegucigalpa’s main airport and prevented his aircraft from landing.

Professor Francisco Dominguez, the head of the Centre for Brazil and Latin American Studies at Middlesex University in southern England, said Zelaya may try a different strategy when making another attempt to return to Honduras.

Micheletti has insisted that Zelaya will not be permitted to return to the presidency [AFP]
"The attempt that he made on July 5 failed beacause he tried to return by air and the implication now is that he will return by land. The border is extremely porous," he said.

"Rodas hinted two days ago that there were very likely army generals that would switch sides [and support Zelaya].

"I don't think that will necessarily mean civil war; I think it will mean that the regime in Tegucigalpa - which is under siege by just about everybody - is very likely to collapse very quickly."

Zelaya was overthrown by the military on the same day that he was due to push ahead with a non-binding referendum on proposed changes to the Honduran constitution.

The country's legislature and supreme court had opposed the vote, declaring it illegal and accusing Zelaya of trying to win support for an extension to his presidential term.

Zelaya denies the allegations, arguing that constitutional change is needed to better represent the country's poor.