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Lobo to be sworn in as deposed Zelaya readies to leave the country

Honduran president-elect Porfirio Lobo (pictured) will be sworn in on Wednesday, bringing an end to the political crisis that has plagued the country since the June ouster of President Manuel Zelaya, who is expected to leave Honduras today.


AFP - Deposed leader Manuel Zelaya was set to leave Honduras Wednesday for exile after newly elected President Porfirio Lobo was sworn in amid hopes of an end to months of turmoil triggered by a June coup.

Lobo has promised his first official act would be to escort his predecessor to the airport where a plane was waiting to take Zelaya to the Dominican Republic.

Zelaya has been holed up in the Brazilian embassy since sneaking back into Honduras in September, following his forced deportation on June 28 by soldiers acting under orders from the supreme court. His original mandate was to have ended Wednesday.

"I pledge to be faithful to the republic and ensure its laws are enforced," Lobo vowed as he took over the presidency in a ceremony attended by few international dignitaries.

The US assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs, Arturo Valenzuela, was among the guests -- a sign of Washington's support for Lobo.

Others included presidents Leonel Fernandez of the Dominican Republic, Ricardo Martinelli of Panama and Ma Ying-jeou of Taiwan, and Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos.

Lobo, who was elected in controversial November polls called by interim leader Roberto Micheletti, faces several challenges to repair the damage from Zelaya's overthrow.

The most immediate ones are filling state coffers starved of trade revenues and foreign credits, and engineering Honduras's return into the family of Latin American nations scandalized by the June coup.

Fresh support from the United States and European countries was seen as key in breaking down a diplomatic isolation imposed on Honduras as punishment for its undemocratic turn.

France, for instance, was "ready to support the new Honduran authorities" as Lobo embarked on a period of national reconciliation, a foreign ministry spokesman said in Paris.

But several nations -- Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela among them -- still refuse to recognize Lobo as president, saying it would imply approval of Zelaya's ouster and of coups generally.

"For Brazil, the situation has not changed. For now, Brazil does not recognize Lobo's government," an official in Brazil's foreign ministry told AFP.

Honduran lawmakers and top judges said they conspired to topple Zelaya because he was threatening the constitution by trying to stay in power beyond his single permitted four-year term.

They claimed he was egged on by his chief foreign ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, whom Micheletti accused of meddling in Honduras's affairs.

A Honduran judge Tuesday dismissed all charges against six military commanders who helped organize the coup.

Congress was expected Wednesday to approve an amnesty for Micheletti and all involved in the ouster.


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