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Fri, 04 Dec 2009 10:26 - Updated Fri, 04 Dec 2009 10:25

US laments Honduras decision not to reinstate Zelaya


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Washington - The US has said it is disappointed by the Honduran Congress's decision not to reinstate President Manuel Zelaya for his remaining two months in office.

Honduran lawmakers voted overwhelmingly against allowing ousted President Manuel Zelaya, who was removed from office in June, to serve out his term.

Conservative politician Porfirio Lobo won presidential elections on Sunday.

Several neighbouring countries say they will not restore ties unless Mr Zelaya is allowed to finish his term.

Following the vote in Congress, Mr Zelaya told the BBC: "This decision ratifies a coup and condemns Honduras to continue living in illegality."

Of the 125 members of Congress present, 111 voted against Mr Zelaya's restitution.

The US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Arturo Valenzuela, said the US was "disappointed" as it had hoped Honduran lawmakers would reinstate Mr Zelaya.

However, he acknowledged that the decision had been reached in a transparent manner through Congress.

Porfirio Lobo won presidential elections held on Sunday Several Latin American nations, including regional power Brazil, refused to recognise Sunday's elections and insisted they would not restore diplomatic ties unless Mr Zelaya was reinstated.

However, the US, which is Honduras's most important trading partner, said the poll was an important first step towards ending the crisis.

Mr Zelaya, who has been inside the Brazilian embassy in the capitial, Tegucigalpa, since secretly returning from exile in September, has described Sunday's presidential elections as "electoral fraud".

Mr Lobo, who lost to Mr Zelaya in the 2005 election, has pledged to form a unity government and seek dialogue.

He also urged the international community to "understand the Honduran reality and stop punishing the country".

The interim President, Roberto Micheletti, was meanwhile set to return to office after absenting himself from the post while elections were held.

Mr Zelaya was forced into exile on 28 June after trying to hold a vote on whether a constituent assembly should be set up to look at rewriting the constitution.