"[Arias] is willing to serve as a mediator and we have recieved word that the de facto caretaker president, Micheletti, will also agree to President Arias serving in this role."

Zelaya told Honduran radio after meeting Clinton that he would hold talks mediated by Arias with the interim Honduran government on Thursday in Costa Rica.

But while Zelaya said that a swift return to power was his "non-negotiable" demand, Roberto Micheletti, the interim president, said the deposed leader was still barred from re-entering Honduras.

Zelaya 'amnesty'

The meeting with Clinton marks Zelaya's highest-level talks with US officials since being overthrown and forced into exile on June 28.

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Clinton said Zelaya and the interim government should commit themselves to reaching a deal in talks with Arias, who won the Nobel peace prize in 1987 for helping to end political violence in El Salvador.

"I believe [dialogue] is a better route for [Zelaya] to follow at this time than to attempt to return in the face of the implacable opposition of the de facto regime," she said.

Mariana Sanchez, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Tegucigalpa, said on Tuesday: "There is a lot of speculation as to what will now happen here.

"The military-backed interim government yesterday sent a delegation to Washington made up of former presidents and former ministers ... [who] are going to meet some [US] Republican senators. This is going parallel to the announcement that Clinton made.
 
"The supreme court judge of Honduras ... said the interim government has allowed the court to name a commission that would help bring the country to a national dialogue and even offer amnesty to Zelaya of charges that he is facing in the country."

Barack Obama, the US president, said earlier on Tuesday that "America supports now the restoration of the democratically elected president of Honduras, even though he has strongly opposed American policies".

"We do so not because we agree with him. We do so because we respect the universal principle that people should choose their own leaders, whether they are leaders we agree with or not," he said in Russia.

Warned off

Zelaya attempted to return to Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital, on Sunday but soldiers and military vehicles blocked the runway and warned off his aircraft.

At least one person among the thousands of people waiting for the aeroplane to land was killed by security forces - the first to die in clashes since the coup.

Mourners preparing to bury Oved Murillo, 16, who was killed in Sunday's violence [EPA]
The US condemned the violence against the pro-Zelaya protesters.

"We deplore the use of force against demonstrators in Tegucigalpa in recent days and once again call upon the de facto regime and all actors in Honduras to refrain from all acts of violence," Ian Kelly, a spokesman for the US state department, said on Monday.

In a phone interview with Al Jazeera, Martha Lorena Alvarado, a Honduran minister, defended Sunday's security operation.

"We are trying to put this country in order because Mr Zelaya wanted to have a replica of Venezuela. If you have ever been to Venezuela, you can foresee our future for the next 20 years," she said.

"People have the right to demonstrate but they do not have the right to disrupt with rocks, destroying everything and defying the police."

Zelaya was removed from power as he was about to press ahead with a non-binding referendum that his domestic critics said was aimed at changing the constitution to enable him to run again for office.