Agreement to let Honduras return to OAS after coup

By FREDDY CUEVAS | May 22, 2011 | 12:12 PM EDT

Hondura's former President Manuel Zelaya looks on during the XVII Sao Paulo Forum in Managua, Nicaragua, Thursday, May 19 2011. (AP Photo/Miguel Alvarez)

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — President Porfirio Lobo will sign an agreement Sunday that allows Honduras' re-entry into the Organization of American States and the return of ousted leader Manuel Zelaya to his homeland, officials said.

The signing will take place in Cartagena, Colombia at a meeting attended by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, his foreign minister and Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro. Santos and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez had been mediating a solution to the crisis caused by the June 2009 coup that sent Zelaya into exile and caused the OAS to suspend Honduras as a member.

Santos said through Twitter that Zelaya would sign the Cartagena Accord, but Lobo didn't mention whether the ousted Honduran leader would be at the meeting to sign the document.

A Honduran government statement said that with the accord Lobo has fulfilled the electoral mandate given him to "achieve national reconciliation and unity, and bring peace and tranquility."

"Zelaya will be given the security and treatment of a former president because he deserves our respect and consideration," Lobo said earlier in a news conference Saturday.

Zelaya, who lives in exile in the Dominican Republic but is currently attending a forum in Nicaragua, has said he plans to return to Honduras on May 28.

Santos said Sunday's agreement "implies the return of Zelaya to Honduras and its return to the OAS."

Zelaya was ousted by the military and hustled out of the country almost two years ago in a dispute over changing the Honduran Constitution. International sanctions and months of negotiations led by the U.S. and the OAS failed to persuade an interim government to restore Zelaya to power.

Honduras went ahead with November 2009 elections that had been scheduled before the coup and Lobo was voted to office. The U.S. and other countries restored ties shortly after he took power in January 2010.

But Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Nicaragua and Ecuador had opposed restoring Honduras to the regional body unless Zelaya could return from exile without facing the threat of prison.

Honduras' courts recently dropped corruption charges and arrest warrants pending against Zelaya, paving the way for the Central American country's return. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said she was confident the OAS would restore Honduras.

On Sunday, Honduras' government said that en route to Cartagena, Lobo will stop in Nicaragua to meet with Zelaya and Central American presidents. It did not say if Zelaya would fly to Cartagena as well.

The Cartagena accord includes the following points: an end to the persecution of Zelaya and his supporters and his safe return to Honduras; a national plebiscite on reforming the country's fundamental laws; respect for human rights and the investigation of possible violations; and guarantees that Zelaya supporters can participate in Honduras' political life and in 2014 elections as a political party.

Honduras' return to the OAS is expected to be made official during the organization's general assembly in El Salvador June 5-7.