The United States says it supports Sunday's presidential election in Honduras as an "essential" part of a solution to that country's ongoing political crisis. 

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly says the U.S. thinks it is important that the people of Honduras have the opportunity to "express their votes in a free and transparent way."

But ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya says the U.S. position on the election has divided the region.  He says support for the election only legitimizes the coup that drove him from power in June and brought Roberto Micheletti to power.  He has called for nations in the region not to recognize the election.

Spokesman Kelly noted that the election, in which neither Mr. Micheletti nor Mr. Zelaya is running, is being organized by an electoral tribunal that was selected and installed in a transparent, democratic process before the coup.  He said it is important the election be seen as free, fair and transparent, and is monitored by a credible international monitoring process.

The Obama administration originally said it would not recognize the election unless Mr. Zelaya was reinstated.  Washington changed its position after the rival sides in the Honduran crisis signed an agreement backed by the Organization of American States.

Latin American countries such as Argentina and Brazil have threatened not to recognize the election outcome unless Mr. Zelaya is restored beforehand.

The U.S., meanwhile, continues to push for a settlement plan between the interim government and Mr. Zelaya on the stalemate over his ouster.

Part of that plan calls for the Honduran Congress to vote on whether Mr. Zelaya should be reinstated to complete his term, which ends in January.  The congressional vote is scheduled for December 2.

Mr. Zelaya was deposed in a military-backed coup June 28 and sent into exile.  He made a surprise return to Honduras in September and has been holed up ever since at the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa.


Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.