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October 31, 2009

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Pact announced on Honduras standoff

REPRESENTATIVES of ousted President Manuel Zelaya finally reached an agreement with the interim government that could help end the months-long dispute over Honduras' June 28 coup, and possibly pave the way for Zelaya's reinstatement.

The Organization of American States announced the deal late on Thursday but did not release a text of the accord, in which Zelaya appears to have agreed to throw his fate into the hands of a congress that has largely supported interim President Roberto Micheletti.

"We are optimistic because Hondurans can reach agreements that are fulfilled," Zelaya told Radio Globo, an opposition station. "This signifies my return to power in the coming days, and peace for Honduras."

The agreement, if it holds, could represent a much-needed foreign policy victory for the United States, which dispatched a senior team of diplomats to coax both sides back to the table.

Speaking to reporters in Islamabad, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called it "an historic agreement," noting "this is a big step forward for the inter-American system."

The agreement appears to soften Micheletti's previous stance that the Supreme Court - which has already rejected Zelaya's reinstatement - decide the issue.

Instead, the high court would make a recommendation, but the final decision would apparently be left to a vote in Congress.

The agreement would create a power-sharing government and bind both sides to recognize the November 29 presidential elections.

The international community had threatened to disregard the vote if Zelaya isn't reinstated, but on Thursday, OAS Political Affairs Secretary Victor Rico told reporters that "the United States and the OAS will accompany Honduras in the elections" as a result of the accord.

Clinton said the elections would go forward and the US will work with Honduras to ensure the election is legitimate.

The deal was greeted by all sides as a victory in the long-running dispute that has polarized the country and mired it in diplomatic isolation.

"Tonight I am pleased to announce that ... I authorized my negotiating team to sign a final accord that marks the beginning of the end to the political situation in the country," Micheletti said in a televised address.


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