Interim leader accepts deal to end Honduran crisis

Honduras' de facto leader Roberto Micheletti has agreed to reinstate ousted President Manuel Zelaya in a deal aimed at ending the country's political crisis.

Honduras' ousted President Manuel Zelaya, second from left, Thomas Shannon, left, U.S.

"I am pleased to announce that a few minutes ago my negotiating team signed an agreement that marks the beginning of the end" of the four-month standoff, Micheletti said late Thursday in a statement from the presidential palace.

The deal would return Zelaya to the presidency, pending approval from Congress -- not the country's top judges, as the interim leader's envoys had been calling for.

"We have always been firm that it should be the Supreme Court that decides the possible return of Mr. Zelaya, but we also understand that our people are calling to turn the page of our history during this difficult time," Micheletti said.

In Islamabad, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hailed the agreement as "historic."

"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 told reporters as she wrapped up a three-day visit to Pakistan.

The political standoff has polarized and isolated Honduras.

Since Zelaya's surprise return to the country in September, when he became holed up in the Brazilian embassy, protests supporting his return to power have shooked the capital.

The agreement, written by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, a pivotal mediator in the crisis, also allows the formation of a national unity government and the holding of the November 29 presidential election on schedule, the interim leader said.

Negotiators for Zelaya and Micheletti earlier Thursday returned to the table as security forces once again used batons and tear gas against hundreds of pro-Zelaya protesters.

The rivals had been told by Thomas Shannon, the US assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs, that they must reach an accord to ensure international support for the elections next month.

Micheletti in his statement called upon the international community "to lift all sanctions against Honduras and send international observers to the presidential elections."

The United States, European Union and International Monetary Fund applied aid freezes to impoverished Honduras after the June 28 coup.

He also said he was "immensely" thankful for the contributions of the United States, the Organization of American States (OAS) and Arias for their work to resolve the crisis.

"Without a deal it will be difficult for the inter-American community to support the elections," Thomas Shannon, the US assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs, had told a news conference here earlier.

"The solution is on the table," Shannon added, referring to the once-rejected San Jose peace accord, which called for Zelaya's reinstatement as a base for negotiations, which Micheletti's negotiating team ultimately agreed to.

The deal also calls for Zelaya to drop his plans to try to change the constitution, which angered the country's elite and ultimately prompted the coup.

Hundreds of Zelaya supporters, blocked from demonstrating by a clampdown on civil liberties, have still faced off all week with police and soldiers in various parts of the capital Tegucigalpa.

"We have several injured and at least 10 have been detained," resistance leader Rafael Alegria told AFP on Thursday.

Shannon said that Honduras needed to regain foreign support to legitimize the November polls.

"This type of support will ensure not only that it (the election) takes place peacefully, but also the reintegration in the international community and reopening the doors of international financial institutions," Shannon said.

Source: AFP

Other news