- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 21, 2010

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — The Dominican government said Wednesday that it has reached a deal with Honduras’ president-elect to offer ousted leader Manuel Zelaya safe passage to the Caribbean nation.

The agreement would let Zelaya, who is holed up in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa, fly to the Dominican Republic as a guest after Honduran President-elect Porfirio Lobo takes office on Jan. 27, according to presidential spokesman Rafael Nunez.

Lobo said he was confident that Honduras’ political crisis would ease after his inauguration.

“We must all forgive. We strongly defend an amnesty for all, regardless of ideological differences we may have. It is in the interest of the Honduran people,” Lobo said after meeting with Fernandez to sign the accord.

Lobo also said he will guarantee that his administration would treat Zelaya with dignity. Under the accord, Fernandez would travel with Zelaya to the Dominican Republic.

Zelaya was toppled in a June 28 military-backed coup and flown into exile. But he later sneaked back into Honduras and holed up in the Brazilian embassy starting a months-long standoff with Honduras’ interim government.

There was no immediate reaction from Zelaya to the deal, but Dominican officials said the ousted Honduran leader was aware of the proposal and they expected him to accept it.

Fernandez said he was hopeful that Honduras would return to “peace, and to the civilized coexistence that is the basis of their progress, prosperity and the well-being of the population.”

Fernandez, a three-term Dominican leader, often positions himself as a Latin American peacemaker.

In 2008, he stood proudly by as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Colombia’s Alvaro Uribe embraced during a Santo Domingo summit, ending a standoff in which the countries were massing troops on their shared border.

But other diplomatic forays have been less successful, including a pair of failed attempts to secure the Dominican Republic a temporary seat on the U.N. Security Council.

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