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Clinton Backs Return of Honduras to Full OAS Role

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in the Peruvian capital, Lima, to meet fellow foreign ministers of the Organization of American States, has reaffirmed American support for the reintegration of Honduras into the regional body. Honduras was expelled from the OAS a year ago, after the ouster of former president Manuel Zelaya.

Despite widely-accepted elections in Honduras last November that put incumbent President Ricardo Lobo in office, the issue of last year's coup remains an issue of bitter controversy among OAS member states.

It is unclear whether the question of restoring Honduras to full membership in the regional grouping will come to a vote in the ministerial-level OAS General Assembly in Lima.

But Clinton is making clear that, in the American view, the conduct of the election and subsequent conciliatory steps by the government of President Lobo merit the return of Honduras to the OAS and other regional bodies.

"President Lobo has done everything he said he would do," said Clinton. "He was elected through a free and fair, legitimate election. He provided political amnesty. He set up a truth commission. He has been very committed to pursuing a policy of reintegration."

Several key Latin American countries, including Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela, have refused to acknowledge Mr. Lobo as the legitimate leader of Honduras because, among other things, the interim government that preceded him failed to reinstate Mr. Zelaya.

Clinton, speaking to reporters traveling with her to Lima, said she is proud of the U.S. role in opposing the Honduran coup, but that the country has now turned a democratic page through its electoral process.

"We all stood together in condemning the coup that removed Zelaya from office and I was very pleased that the United States was a strong voice in condemning that," she said. "But then we worked with the neighbors and we worked with the electoral system, because this election which had long been scheduled was to our view, the surest way forward."

Clinton, on her second major Latin American trip since March, goes to Ecuador Tuesday and on to Colombia, later that day.

She says that in a policy speech in Quito, she will urge the strengthening of democratic institutions in the region and that it is not enough to just hold elections.

"Democracy that doesn't deliver results for people, especially if it's only defined in terms of election winners and losers, is not what we mean by transformational change when it comes to the future," said Clinton. "So talking about democratic governance, linking it with social inclusion, talking specifically about what works, I think is really finding a receptive audience throughout Latin America."

Clinton ends her mission at mid-week in Barbados with meetings with Caribbean leaders focusing on, among other things, regional security and the threat of drug-related gang violence underscored by recent unrest in Jamaica.

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