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Honduras' ousted president, government sign pact

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091030/ap_on_re_la_am_ca/lt_honduras_coup Honduras ousted president, government sign pact Juan Zamorano, Associated Press Writer
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 30, 2009
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091030/ap_on_re_la_am_ca/lt_honduras_coup

      Honduras' ousted president, government sign pact
      Juan Zamorano, Associated Press Writer – 1 hr 1 min ago

      TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – Representatives of ousted President Manuel Zelaya finally reached an agreement with the interim government that could help end the monthslong dispute over Honduras' June 28 coup, and possibly pave the way for Zelaya's reinstatement.

      The Organization of American States announced the deal late Thursday but did not release a text of the accord, in which Zelaya appears to have agreed to throw his fate into the hands of a congress that has largely supported interim President Roberto Micheletti.

      "We are optimistic because Hondurans can reach agreements that are fulfilled," Zelaya told Radio Globo, an opposition station. "This signifies my return to power in the coming days, and peace for Honduras."

      The agreement, if it holds, could represent a much-needed foreign policy victory for the United States, which dispatched a senior team of diplomats to coax both sides back to the table.

      Speaking to reporters in Islamabad, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called it "an historic agreement," noting "this is a big step forward for the inter-American system."

      The agreement appears to soften Micheletti's previous stance that the Supreme Court — which has already rejected Zelaya's reinstatement — decide the issue. Instead, the high court would make a recommendation, but the final decision would apparently be left to a vote in Congress.

      The agreement would create a power-sharing government and bind both sides to recognize the Nov. 29 presidential elections. The international community had threatened to not recognize the vote if Zelaya is not reinstated, but on Thursday, OAS Political Affairs Secretary Victor Rico told reporters that "the United States and the OAS will accompany Honduras in the elections" as a result of the accord.

      Clinton said the elections would go forward and the U.S. will work with Honduras to ensure the election is legitimate.

      The deal was greeted by all sides as a victory in the long-running dispute that has polarized the country and mired it in diplomatic isolation.

      "Tonight I am pleased to announce that ... I authorized my negotiating team to sign a final accord that marks the beginning of the end to the political situation in the country," Micheletti said in a televised address.

      The team of U.S. diplomats had worked over the last two days to coax both sides back to the table.

      "This is a great moment for Honduras, and its people should be proud that Hondurans have achieved this accord," said Tom Shannon, U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs, who arrived with the U.S. delegation Wednesday.

      Rico said "they (the negotiators) are the heroes of Honduran democracy ... and this is a great moment for Honduras." The OAS had tried for months to bring the two sides together.

      Micheletti called the pact a "significant concession" on his part, and said that one point would require foreign powers to drop sanctions or aid cutoffs imposed after the coup, and send observers to the elections.

      The Supreme Court has already rejected Zelaya's return, saying he was replaced as president on June 28 because he violated the Constitution by pressing for a vote on potential constitutional reforms. Zelaya's opponents accuse him of attempting to end a ban on presidential term limits — something the leftist leader denies.

      Zelaya, who is holed up at the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa, the capital, has said Congress should make the decision on his reinsatement, even though he currently enjoys the support of only about a fifth of the legislators.

      Zelaya was flown out of the country by soldiers on June 28, but slipped back in Sept. 21. It was unclear if he would be allowed to leave the Brazilian Embassy under the deal.

      The interim government has vowed to arrest Zelaya if he leaves the diplomatic mission, and filed a complaint Thursday at the U.N.'s highest court accusing Brazil of meddling in Honduran affairs by giving Zelaya refuge. The International Court of Justice declined to comment on whether it would hear the case, and Brazil's Foreign Ministry said the government was evaluating the complaint.

      Brazil supports Zelaya's fight to return to power and has not pressured him or his supporters to leave.

      Earlier on Thursday, police fired tear gas to disperse a march of about 1,000 Zelaya supporters as they neared the hotel where the talks were taking place.
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