December 14, 2009 / 4:06 PM / 10 years ago

Brazil, U.S. find common ground on Honduras: official

BRASILIA (Reuters) - The United States and Brazil agree ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya must have safe passage to leave Honduras and want the country’s de facto president to step down to pave the way for national reconciliation, a senior Brazilian official said on Monday.

Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya addresses followers while sitting in the patio of the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa November 29, 2009. REUTERS/Stringer )

“We believe that (de facto) President Michelleti should leave, it’s the first important step,” Marco Aurelio Garcia, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s foreign policy advisor, told reporters.

“It’s also fundamental that a safe passage be given to (ousted) President (Manuel) Zelaya,” Garcia said after meeting with the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Arturo Valenzuela.

Both sides played down differences on Honduras. Unlike Washington, Brazil did not recognize the legitimacy of Honduras’ presidential elections last month.

“We coincide in something: for the Brazilian and the U.S. governments the election is insufficient to normalize democracy,” Garcia said, adding that they still had a “small difference” over the results of the election.

Brazil had previously warned that Washington would become isolated in the region by recognizing an election much of Latin America considered illegitimate because it was born of a coup.

“We really agree on some of the fundamental aspects of our relationship, and we have a similar view of many of the issues in the hemisphere,” Valenzuela said when asked about the differences with Brazil over Honduras.

Soldiers grabbed Zelaya from his home in June and threw him out of the country in his pajamas, sparking Central America’s worst political crisis since the Cold War. He later sneaked back into Honduras to take refuge in the Brazilian embassy and conduct a campaign for his return to power.

Attempts for Zelaya to leave the country following the November election have failed. Last week he said the de facto government would allow him to leave the country only if he signs a letter dropping his demand to be reinstated as president. His term in office was scheduled to end on January 27.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in Washington last week that it was up to Zelaya to decide whether to stay at the Brazilian Embassy in Honduras or move to another country.

Washington and Brasilia agreed to set up a permanent dialogue to help end the Honduran crisis, Garcia said.

Reporting by Raymond Colitt, editing by Jackie Frank

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