TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – Honduran lawmakers will not decide whether to restore ousted President Manuel Zelaya until after upcoming presidential elections, the congressional leader said Tuesday, a decision that could undermine international support for the vote.
Congress will meet Dec. 2 — three days after the Nov. 29 election — to decide whether Zelaya should be returned the presidency to finish his constitutional term, which ends in January, congressional president Jose Alfredo Saavedra told local HRN radio station.
Several Latin American countries have warned they will not recognize the outcome of the election unless Zelaya is restored beforehand. But the United States has not ruled out restoring diplomatic ties with a newly elected Honduran government even if Zelaya remains out of power through the vote.
Zelaya warned over the weekend that he would not return to the presidency if Congress votes to restore him after the elections, saying doing so would legitimize the June 28 coup.
The administration of President Barack Obama has repeatedly said that recognition of the election is not linked to any one action, said State Department spokesman Charles Luoma-Overstreet. Rather, he said, the State Department is hoping a broader, U.S.-brokered accord is enacted.
"Congress deciding on the issue of restitution of President Zelaya is one of those things we've urged them to act with expedience on, and we welcome all actions that could move forward toward resolution," Luoma-Overstreet told The Associated Press.
Both Zelaya and interim President Roberto Micheletti signed the agreement brokered by U.S. diplomats last month. However, the two sides are now at odds over whether the pact is being fulfilled.
The accord calls for the formation of a national unity government, but does not require Zelaya's restoration to office, leaving that decision up to Congress. It set no deadline for lawmakers to vote.
Zelaya declared the pact a failure two weeks ago when Micheletti announced the formation of a unity government before Congress had voted, accusing the interim leader of maneuvering to stay in power.
Craig Kelly, a deputy assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere, arrived in Honduras on Tuesday, to meet with the feuding sides, said Ledy Pacheco, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa.
It is Kelly's second trip in less than a week to try to revive the accord.