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Honduran Supreme Court mulls compromise to reinstate Zelaya

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras, Nov. 13 (UPI) -- The Honduran Supreme Court is considering ways to extricate the country from the crisis over the Nov. 29 presidential election, which is most likely to be declared invalid unless ousted President Jose Manuel Zelaya is reinstated before the vote.

After months of wrangling over Zelaya's ouster from office June 28, which failed to produce a compromise solution, international attempts are now focused on getting the Supreme Court to pronounce its views on Zelaya's ouster. Attempts to persuade the de facto government and interim President Roberto Micheletti reached a deadlock this week despite mediation by the United States and the Organization of American States.

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The Supreme Court's opinion is not seen to be binding, but negotiators led by the OAS and backed by the Obama administration see the judges' intervention as a possible way of out the impasse.

Following a Supreme Court ruling in June, Zelaya was forced out of power at gunpoint and exiled to Costa Rica. He sneaked back into the country in September and took up residence at the Brazilian Embassy in the capital. He has waged his campaign for reinstatement from the embassy compound, backed by protesters outside the building and various lobbying groups that want him restored as president.

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Meanwhile, human-rights groups have reported large-scale arrests of Zelaya sympathizers by Micheletti's regime, shutdown of media that campaigned for Zelaya's return to office and widespread hardship among the country's poor because of stoppages and economic chaos.

As Election Day approaches, however, Zelaya's return to power is seen as a necessary technicality to enable the vote to take place under a semblance of legitimacy, analysts said. No one seriously believes Zelaya can exercise any power, whether nominally reinstated for the election period or for a longer period until his term expires in January.

The election of a new president on Nov. 29 will make Zelaya's presidency irrelevant in all respects except its needed cover for the election and to save Honduras from diplomatic isolation, analysts said.

The Honduras Supreme Court began to consider Zelaya's reinstatement Wednesday following requests received from Congress and the Attorney General's Office.

An agreement on seeking the judges' advice was reached last month.

Danilo Izaguirre, spokesman for the Supreme Court, confirmed the judges were in session and considering the congressional request on Zelaya's possible returning to office, MercoPress reported.

The Supreme Court played a crucial role in Zelaya's ouster. He was flown to Costa Rica by the military acting on orders from the Supreme Court. The court accused Zelaya of flouting the constitution by having sponsored a referendum that could have made possible his re-election as president.

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Although there is no sign of a breakthrough and, instead, a real risk of the election taking place and then being declared invalid in the absence of Zelaya, the election campaign is going at full steam. Candidates seem unfazed by the crisis and have announced ambitious plans for their presidential responsibilities. Micheletti has said he does not care if the international community regards the election outcome as illegitimate.

State Department officer Craig Kelly said during a visit to Tegucigalpa that elections "are part of the solution but we want to advance with the greatest international support possible."

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