Page last updated at 08:08 GMT, Thursday, 3 December 2009

Honduran Congress votes down Zelaya's reinstatement

Supporters hold a poster of Manuel Zelaya as they protest outside the Congress building in the HOnduran capital, Tegucigalpa
Mr Zelaya himself remains holed up in the Brazilian embassy in Honduras

Congress in Honduras has voted overwhelmingly against allowing ousted President Manuel Zelaya to serve out the last two months of his term.

Of the 125 members of Congress present, 111 voted against his reinstatement.

Mr Zelaya, who was removed from office in June, told the BBC the decision "ratifies the coup" and meant Hondurans were "living in illegality".

The former leader has also condemned Sunday's presidential elections, won by Conservative politician Porfirio Lobo.

After Congress voted not to reinstate him to serve out his term, which ends on 27 January, Mr Zelaya said: "This decision ratifies a coup and condemns Honduras to continue living in illegality."

As lawmakers debated, security forces kept back dozens of Zelaya supporters who were protesting outside the building.

"We'll continue the fight because it is not only for the reinstatement of Mel Zelaya but also for the restoration of democracy," one demonstrator, Irma Flores, told BBC Mundo.

'No solution'

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 has been inside the Brazilian embassy in the capitial, Tegucigalpa, since secretly returning from exile in September.

"I'll stay in the Brazilian embassy fighting for this dictatorship to be condemned, and now against the electoral fraud committed on Sunday. The elections are no solution for the country," Mr Zelaya said.

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

Mr Lobo 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.

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 pointed out that it would have been impossible to change the constitution before his term in office was up.

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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES Honduran congress votes against Zelaya - 1 hr ago
Boston Globe Hondurans debate ex-leaders future - 2 hrs ago Honduras Congress votes against Zelaya's return - 3 hrs ago
Reuters UK Honduran Congress votes against Zelaya's return - 5 hrs ago
Times Online Honduras votes against Zelaya reinstatement - 5 hrs ago

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