Honduran rivals accept deal

Pact opens door for the return to power of ousted president Zelaya

 
The breakthrough late on Thursday followed renewed pressure from senior US officials who travelled to Honduras this week for a last-ditch effort to end a crisis that has given US 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 and it originally backed the coup against him but Zelaya said he did not expect any new setbacks. “This is a first step. My reinstatement is imminent, I am optimistic,” he told Reuters.  US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised the deal as a victory for democracy in Latin America. “This is a big step forward for the Inter-American system and its commitment to democracy,” she said in Islamabad.

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 the Honduran troops surrounding the building and his rivals demanding his arrest and trial.

Micheletti’s defiance

De facto leader Roberto Micheletti, who took over the country within hours of Zelaya’s ouster, had repeatedly refused to step aside to let the leftist return, but he softened his position on Thursday. “I have authorised 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 authorised by the country’s Supreme Court. The deal would also require both sides to recognise the result of a November 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. It was not clear what would happen to other elements of the agreement if Congress votes against Zelaya’s restoration.

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 cancelling the travel visas of prominent figures involved in the coup and the de facto government.

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