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Deal In Honduras Could End Political Crisis

The de facto leader of Honduras has agreed to sign a deal to end the country's monthslong political stalemate and form a power-sharing government with ousted President Manuel Zelaya.

In a televised address late Thursday, interim President Roberto Micheletti said he was authorizing "my negotiating team to sign a final accord that marks the beginning of the end to the political situation in the country."

The agreement, announced by the Organization of American States, comes after an eleventh-hour effort by the U.S. to end the crisis and represents a foreign-policy victory for President Obama, who dispatched a senior diplomatic team to bring the two sides back to the table.

Speaking to reporters in Islamabad, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called it "an historic agreement," noting "this is a big step forward for the inter-American system."

Tom Shannon, U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs, who arrived with the U.S. delegation Wednesday, echoed Clinton's sentiments, calling it "a great moment for Honduras."

The OAS had threatened to reject results from the upcoming Nov. 25 presidential vote unless Zelaya, who was overthrown in June, was first reinstated. But OAS Political Affairs Secretary Victor Rico told reporters Thursday that the organization "will accompany Honduras in the elections" as a result of the accord.

The deal still faces dual obstacles — a supreme court that has already rejected Zelaya's reinstatement and a Honduran Congress that largely approved of his ouster. It provides for the high court to recommend whether Zelaya should return to power, with a final decision left to the legislature.

But Zelaya on Thursday expressed confidence that he would be reseated and finish out his term, which ends in January.

"This signifies my return to power in the coming days, and peace for Honduras," he told Radio Globo, an opposition station.

After months of exile, Zelaya returned in September to the capital, Tegucigalpa, where he took refuge in the Brazilian Embassy.

Micheletti, who took over within hours of Zelaya's ouster, has repeatedly rejected calls to step down but sounded a note of compromise after the deal's announcement.

"I have authorized my negotiating team to sign a deal that marks the beginning of the end of the country's political situation," he told reporters Thursday night.

Micheletti called the pact a "significant concession" on his part and said that one point would require foreign powers to drop sanctions or aid cutoffs imposed after the coup and send observers to the elections.

Zelaya's opponents have accused him of trying to end a ban on presidential term limits — something the leftist leader denies.

From NPR staff and wire reports

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