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Honduras Reaches Deal on Political Crisis

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The de facto Honduran government has agreed to a deal that may allow ousted President Manuel Zelaya to return to power ahead of elections next month. U.S. diplomats have been in the country to mediate an end to the four-month-old crisis.

De facto President Roberto Micheletti unveiled the plan late Thursday, nearly four months after he took over for ousted President Manuel Zelaya. Since then, Mr. Micheletti has rejected calls from Mr. Zelaya and many foreign governments to restore the ousted leader to power, saying the Supreme Court had stripped Mr. Zelaya of power for violating the Honduran constitution.

Now after several weeks of negotiations, Mr. Micheletti said his government was making a significant concession to open the door to Mr. Zelaya's return.

He said the government has been clear that the Supreme Court must decide whether to allow Mr. Zelaya to return to power. He added officials understand that Hondurans want peace and an end to the crisis.

Under the deal, the Supreme Court must authorize the Congress to vote on whether to allow Mr. Zelaya to return to power and serve the remaining three months of his term. It also calls for a commission to investigate the events surrounding Mr. Zelaya's removal from office.

Mr. Zelaya, who has been staying in the Brazilian embassy for the past month, told reporters the deal was a triumph for Honduran democracy.

The agreement capped weeks of negotiations led by the Organization of American States and U.S. officials. The OAS, along with the United States and other governments, had warned they would not recognize the outcome of November elections unless a deal was reached.

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U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Tom Shannon led American diplomats in the final talks.

"This is a great victory for Honduran democracy and a great victory for the Honduran people," he said.

In Tegucigalpa, supporters of the ousted president took to the streets to celebrate the announcement late Thursday. Some saw the deal as an end to what they call a coup government, which they blame for imposing curfews and civil rights restrictions.

In Miami, supporters of Mr. Micheletti's government said they were pleased that Honduran institutions and not foreign governments would make the final decision on Mr. Zelaya's fate. Karen Bush runs a construction firm in her native Honduras.

"What this does is give us another alternative, letting the actual people, the institutions decide what to do," she said. "I think putting it through Congress is the best way of doing it."

Bush says it remains very unlikely that Congress will endorse Mr. Zelaya's return, noting that lawmakers agreed in June to strip him of power. In the end, she says a new president will be chosen next month, and the accord helps ensure the international community will accept the results.

U.S. officials have suspended millions of dollars in aid to Honduras in response to the political crisis. After announcing the deal, de facto president Micheletti called on the United States and other foreign nations to reverse the economic penalties.