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Zelaya warns US support for Honduras election divisive

Workers distribute ballot boxes for the disputed elections in Honduras
Preparations are continuing for Sunday's elections

US support for Sunday's presidential election in Honduras is creating a grave, undemocratic precedent, ousted president Manuel Zelaya has said.

Mr Zelaya told Reuters the US position had "divided the Americas".

The Obama administration had indicated it would not recognise the election unless Mr Zelaya was restored to power.

But the State Department said this week it backed the election process as an "essential part" of the solution to the five-month political crisis.

"It's important that these elections be seen as free, fair and transparent and are monitored by a credible international monitoring process," State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said on Tuesday.

"And that's exactly what we're supporting."

Mr Kelly said they were unable to judge the outcome of something that had not yet taken place.

"But the process that we see in place is a process that we are supporting," he said.

Several Latin American nations, including Brazil and Argentina, have said they will not recognise the result.

'Position changed'

Neither Mr Zelaya nor interim leader Roberto Micheletti is standing in Sunday's election. The favourite is conservative Porfirio Lobo from the National Party, with Elvin Santos from the Liberal Party considered his nearest rival.

Mr Zelaya, who was forced out of the country on 28 June, told Reuters it would be undemocratic if the US backed an election held by a post-coup government.

"The United States changed its position. Its priority was the restoration of democracy and then elections, now they put elections as the priority," he said in a telephone interview from the Brazilian embassy, where he has been holed up since slipping back home from exile in September.

Mr Micheletti is set to step down from office from Wednesday until 2 December.

The move aimed to allow the elections to proceed "peacefully and transparently" and rule out any suggestion of undue interference, his spokesman said.

Mr Zelaya said the step was a trick by Mr Micheletti, who was a "stain on democracy".

The Honduran Congress is set to decide after Sunday's poll whether Mr Zelaya should be reinstated to serve out the rest of his term until 27 January.

Mr Zelaya was sent 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.

His critics said the vote, which was ruled illegal by the Supreme Court, aimed to remove the current one-term limit on serving as president and pave the way for his possible re-election.

Mr Zelaya has repeatedly denied this and some commentators say it would have been impossible to change the constitution before his term in office was up.



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