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US Says More Work Needed on Honduran Settlement

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

But US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had warm praise for conduct of Honduran presidential election late last month

The Obama administration Wednesday applauded conciliatory steps promised by Honduran president-elect Portofirio Lobo. But it said more work needs to be done on national reconciliation before the political crisis spawned by the ouster of President Manuel Zelaya in late June can be considered over.

The tone was set by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who in a statement volunteered to reporters at a meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Petro Poroshenko had warm praise for the conduct of the Honduran presidential election late last month.

In the Obama administration's most specific comment on the election to date, Clinton said the United States salutes the Honduran people for turning out peacefully in large numbers to take part in the polling, and congratulates President-elect Lobo for his victory.

Clinton said the United States is encouraged by initial moves by the incoming Honduran leader to heal the rifts caused by the coup that deposed Mr. Zelaya, but she made clear the expressed intentions of the President-elect must be followed by tangible action.

"These November 29th elections marked an important milestone in the process of moving forward but not its end. President-elect Lobo has launched a national dialogue and he has called for the formation of a national unity government, and a truth commission as set forth in the Tegucigalpa-San Jose accord. We stand with the Honduran people and we will continue to work closely with others in the region who seek to determine the democratic way forward for Hondurans," she said.

The creation of a national unity government and a truth commission to look into circumstances of the coup were spelled out in the Tegucigalpa-San Jose accord hammered out before the election in mediation led by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias.

While the United States had initially called for the reinstatement of President Zelaya, it later accepted the accord brokered by Mr. Arias that left the issue up to the Honduran Congress, which voted last week against restoring him to power.

Clinton said she had spoken with President Arias Tuesday, when he was in the Honduran capital with Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli meeting with president-elect Lobo and other officials on the follow-up to the November 29 election.

Clinton noted in her statement that the United States had condemned Mr. Zelaya's expulsion and taken significant steps, among them aid cuts, to signal its determination that democratic order in Honduras be restored.

The United States Tuesday lifted a travel alert discouraging Americans from traveling to Honduras. But State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly said a few more steps need to be taken before the situation with Honduras can be normalized.