Honduran rivals agree a deal to return Zelaya to power

Honduras' de facto government has accepted a deal that opens the door for the return to power of President Zelaya.

Honduran rivals agree a deal to return Zelaya to power

Honduras' de facto government has accepted a deal that opens the door for the return to power of President Manuel Zelaya, toppled in a military coup four months ago.

The breakthrough late on Thursday followed renewed pressure from senior U.S. officials who traveled to Honduras this week for a last-ditch effort to end a crisis that has given U.S. President Barack Obama a foreign policy headache.

"It is a triumph for Honduran democracy," the leftist Zelaya said after the rival sides agreed to a deal that he said should see him restored to office in the coming days.

Congress still needs to approve his return, but Zelaya said he did not expect any new setbacks. "This is a first step. My reinstatement is imminent, I'm optimistic," he told Reuters.

Zelaya was toppled and sent into exile on June 28 but crept back into Honduras last month and has since been holed up in the Brazilian embassy with Honduran troops surrounding the building and his rivals demanding his arrest and trial.

De facto leader Roberto Micheletti, who took over the country within hours of Zelaya's ouster, had repeatedly refused to step aside to let his return, but he softened his position on Thursday.

"I have authorized my negotiating team to sign a deal that marks the beginning of the end of the country's political situation," Micheletti told reporters on Thursday night.

He said Zelaya could return to office after a vote in Congress that would be authorized by the country's Supreme Court. The deal would also require both sides to recognize the result of a Nov. 29 presidential election and would transfer control of the army to the top electoral court.

If approved by Congress, Zelaya would be able to finish out his presidential term, which ends in January.

Micheletti said the deal will create a truth commission to investigate the events of the last few months, and would ask foreign governments to reverse punitive measures like suspending aid and canceling the travel visas of prominent figures involved in the coup and the de facto government.

"Fair elections impossible"

World leaders had all insisted Zelaya be allowed to finish his term and they threatened not to recognize the winner of the November election unless democracy was first restored.

A U.S. team led by Assistant Secretary of State Tom Shannon and Dan Restrepo, Washington's special assistant for Western Hemisphere affairs, sat in on talks earlier in the day and warned that time was running out to reach a deal.

The coffee-producing Central American country has been diplomatically isolated since Zelaya was rousted at dawn by soldiers on June 28 and flown to exile on a military plane.

Human rights groups have documented major abuses by the de facto government and say free and fair elections would be impossible after Micheletti curbed civil liberties and temporarily shut down pro-Zelaya news organizations.

Obama cut some aid to Honduras after the coup but had been criticized by some Latin American for not doing more to force the de facto government to back down.

The collapse of talks last week prompted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to dispatch the U.S. delegation to push again for a negotiated settlement.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 30 Ekim 2009, 11:18