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Honduras interim leader leaves, cabinet in charge

Honduran interim President Roberto Micheletti said Thursday that he will move out of the presidential palace and avoid public appearances six days before the newly elected leader's inauguration. He did not resign.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Honduran interim President Roberto Micheletti said Thursday that he will move out of the presidential palace and avoid public appearances six days before the newly elected leader's inauguration. He did not resign.

Micheletti said he is voluntarily withdrawing from the spotlight and leaving his Cabinet in charge of day-to-day operations to ease the way for President-elect Porfirio Lobo, who is scheduled to be sworn in Wednesday.

"I am going home to my house, for the peace of the nation and because I do not want to be an obstacle to the new government," Micheletti told the Channel 5 television station.

Micheletti made clear that his role as head of the interim government had not ended.

"I am not resigning, I am just going away temporarily," he said. "In the coming days I will adopt a lower public profile and step aside, so the new government has more room to act."

The interim leader also said he would attend Lobo's inauguration.

Congress named Micheletti acting president after President Manuel Zelaya was ousted from office in a June 28 coup. Micheletti took a similar informal leave during the Nov. 29 presidential elections. The constitution allows the president to be absent from office for up to 15 days at a time.

Lobo won the election, but many nations have refused to recognize the results because they opposed the coup and also were concerned when the interim government shuttered some opposition news media outlets and imposed curfews.

Micheletti clung to the office and ignored international calls to reinstate Zelaya, a decision that led the United States to freeze millions of dollars of aid. The U.S. has since indicated that it accepts the election results, however.

Zelaya was ousted after refusing to drop a campaign for a referendum related to changing the constitution, which the Supreme Court ruled illegal.

Zelaya remains holed up at the Brazilian Embassy in the capital, Tegucigalpa, where he took refuge after sneaking back into the country in September. He says he is still president until next week and after that will announce his next move.

Micheletti has said Zelaya faces arrest on treason and abuse of power charges if he leaves the embassy, but has suggested he could request asylum in some other country.

Lobo has said he supports an amnesty for Zelaya and the coup perpetrators alike. On Wednesday, he signed an agreement with Dominican President Leonel Fernandez to allow Zelaya to travel to the Dominican Republic as Fernandez's guest.

Honduran chief prosecutor Luis Alberto Rubi said that any such agreement would not cancel out the charges against Zelaya.