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Honduras’ Rivals Resolve Leadership Dispute

BY newsdesk  October 30, 2009 at 11:30 AM EST

Toppled Honduran President Manuel Zelaya. Photo: Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images

Representatives of deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya and his rival, interim President Roberto Micheletti, signed an agreement late Thursday that could lead toward reinstating Zelaya four months after he was forcibly removed by the military.

The U.S.-brokered deal lets Honduras’ Congress decide whether or not Zelaya is reinstated. The legislature backed his June 28 removal, but congressional leaders have said they wouldn’t stand in the way of an agreement that ends Honduras’ political stalemate, the Associated Press reported.

“We are willing to be cooperative in Congress with the agreement of the negotiators,” Porfirio Lobo, a National Party lawmaker who is favored to win the Nov. 29 presidential elections, said Friday, quoted the AP. “The best decision for Honduras will be taken.”

Zelaya, who is holed up at the Brazilian Embassy in the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa, told opposition Radio Globo: “This signifies my return to power in the coming days, and peace for Honduras.”

Rasel Tome, political adviser to Zelaya, confirmed the news from inside the Brazilian Embassy: “This is the first firm step towards the return to power of Manuel Zelaya. … We can’t slip into triumphalism, but we’re optimistic.”

Tome said despite the fact that Congress overwhelmingly voted to strip Zelaya of the presidency on June 28, it will now be under pressure to approve the deal.

Micheletti, who took over after Zelaya was removed from office, repeatedly refused to let the leftist president return, but appeared to soften his stance 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 Thursday night, Reuters reported.

President Barack Obama sent his top envoy for the Americas, Thomas Shannon, to Honduras this week to pressure the two sides to resolve the crisis.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is traveling in Pakistan, told reporters in Islamabad that it was “an historic agreement.”

The agreement says Zelaya could return to office if Congress approves it and the country’s Supreme Court authorizes it.

The deal also requires both sides to recognize the result of the Nov. 29 presidential election and transfers control of the army to the top electoral court.

If Congress approves the deal, Zelaya would be able to finish out his presidential term, which ends in January.

The deal also would create a truth commission to investigate the events of the last few months, and would ask foreign governments to reverse punitive measures, such as suspending aid and canceling the travel visas of prominent figures involved in the coup and the de facto government, according to Reuters.