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Honduras stability in doubt amid vote row

Hondurans participate in a rally against the return of ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya during a rally at the central park in Tegucigalpa, Tuesday June 30, 2009. (UPI Photo/Ek Balam)
Hondurans participate in a rally against the return of ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya during a rally at the central park in Tegucigalpa, Tuesday June 30, 2009. (UPI Photo/Ek Balam) | License Photo

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- The political stability of Honduras appears in doubt amid continuing disagreements over the follow-up to November presidential elections and U.S. pleas for a truth commission to investigate those responsible for the June event that triggered the crisis.

President-elect Porfirio Lobo appears in no great hurry to clarify the position of Jose Manuel Zelaya, deposed from the presidency on June 28 and currently holed up in the Brazilian Embassy in the capital to continue his campaign for full restoration of political rights.

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Zelaya's successor Roberto Micheletti and his aides are looking to be granted amnesty as part of a wider deal to restore normalcy before the Jan. 27 inauguration of Lobo as president.

However, this now appears in doubt because of deep divisions within Congress on what to do with Zelaya and Micheletti and whether to pursue the establishment of a truth commission.

Lobo has indicated he favors reconciliation, but the U.S. position for a truth commission has gained support within Congress amid indications that recrimination and political horse-trading over the new government and future amnesty for the June activists may be a drawn-out and costly affair.

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The U.S. support for a truth commission is accompanied by exhortations to Lobo to try and forge an inclusive government of national unity. Senior U.S. negotiator and Assistant Secretary of State Craig Kelly has been in talks with senior Honduran officials to try and clinch a deal.

The United States recognized Lobo's election over the objections of regional and international governments that maintain due processes were neglected in the vote, which was organized by the outgoing de facto regime responsible for Zelaya's overthrow.

U.S.-backed negotiators tried and failed to secure a deal that would have reinstalled Zelaya for the duration of the election, to give the process constitutional legitimacy. As that did not happen, Zelaya too denounced the election and remained rooted in the Brazilian Embassy.

A deal likely to come before Congress next week will decide if Zelaya can be allowed to leave for self-exile, probably in Brazil, or stay on and continue his political activities. He has indicated he may prefer the latter option. If he leaves the embassy and re-enters Honduran politics, it will further exacerbate political tensions in the country.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration has hinted that failure to reach a deal may further prolong suspension of U.S. and other international aid to Honduras.

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"We have some decisions to make, in terms of the nature of our relationship, the nature of assistance in the future," U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters in Washington.

The accord now being sought by the United States is not new. Before the November election Micheletti and Zelaya agreed to the U.S. initiative and signed agreements providing for a national unity government and a truth commission, but the deal fell through before Hondurans went to the polls.

Crowley said the United States supports the formation of a government of national unity and the restoration of democratic rule to help resolve the crisis.

"Can that government be a vehicle through which you begin a healing process and you have a situation where the Honduran people can unite behind this new government? That is our primary effort here: How do we help Honduras move forward and to overcome the clear tension that resulted in the actions taken last June?"

Analysts said the diplomatic situation was complicated by the U.S. recognition of Lobo's election amid reservations from Latin American and European governments, which made the task of securing an accord on the makeup of the new government and the setting up of a truth commission much harder for diplomats on the ground.

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