Guatemala: Honduran leader must return before vote

Guatemala: Honduran leader must return before vote

Guatemala City: Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom said on Friday that scheduled elections in neighboring Honduras will not be valid if ousted President Manuel Zelaya is not reinstated before the 29 November vote.

“President Zelaya must be reinstated before the elections, because if he is not, the elections will not be legitimate," Colom said after meeting with Zelaya.

Other countries including the United States have also said they would not recognise the results of the presidential election under current conditions.

The government in charge since a 28 June coup that removed Zelaya has pledged to hold out against international isolation and pressure to reinstate the ousted leader and go through with the vote.

Observers say Zelaya’s time is running out, with just over four months remaining in his term. But Zelaya said on Friday there is no time limit on his fight and repeated previous vows to return home.

“The time period for fighting a principle, for democracy and justice, is undefined and is part of a historic process," he said.

The United States cut all non-humanitarian aid to Honduras on Thursday to express its disagreement with the coup and ratchet up pressure on the interim government to allow Zelaya to return. The cutoff of $31 million in non-humanitarian assistance makes permanent a temporary suspension of US aid imposed after the coup.

The decision drew praise from Zelaya and his ally President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

Chavez told Venezuelan state television by phone from Iran on Friday that “it’s about time" Washington took action against the coup. He added that he hopes Washington will make good on its statement that it would not recognise the election under current conditions.

Zelaya said as long as the interim government refuses to yield, “all electoral activity is illegitimate."