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Sunday, 1 November 2009

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Rivals sign deal to end Honduras crisis

Ousted President Manuel Zelaya looked set to be reinstated, pending approval from Congress, as rival sides in Honduras finalized a deal Friday to end four months of political paralysis.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton led international praise for the deal reached late Thursday, with a push from US envoys, amid a deep crisis set off by a June 28 military-backed coup. The accord between Zelaya and de facto leader Roberto Micheletti includes a power-sharing government and a congressional decision on Zelaya’s brief reinstatement ahead of presidential polls next month. A visit by envoys from the United States, the country’s main military and financial backer, gave the final boost to reach the agreement.

“You can’t underestimate the relation (of Honduras) with the United States,” Michael Shifter, of the Inter-American Dialogue think-tank told AFP.

Many in Latin America had criticized the United States for failing to apply enough pressure on the de facto leaders, despite freezing aid and suspending visas of top members of the regime. The deal entered into effect when it was signed Friday, but it will be officially recognized on Monday, according to the document seen by AFP.

A national unity government will be in place by November 5, it added. Zelaya’s return is “the issue that is going to be the most provocative and the one we’ll have to pay more attention,” said US Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Shannon, before leaving Honduras Friday.

Shannon said there was no timeline for the 128-member Congress to vote on the deal. Lawmakers were also due to consult with the Supreme Court.

Foreign observers from Brazil to Canada poured praise on both sides for breaking the lengthy stalemate.

“I cannot think of another example of a country in Latin America that, having suffered a rupture of its democratic institutional order, overcame such a crisis through negotiation and dialogue,” Clinton said in Islamabad.

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, who first proposed the deal, said Friday he was confident that Congress would approve the restitution of Zelaya before the elections. Under the deal, Zelaya will have to drop his controversial mission to change the constitution, which his rivals saw as a bid to extend his four-year term, and step aside for the victor of the November 29 poll.

Micheletti’s envoys finally backed down from their insistence that the Supreme Court decide on Zelaya’s return late Thursday. Micheletti warned, however, on CNN in Spanish Friday that Zelaya would start a “campaign of persecution” against him and the de facto government.

-AFP

 

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