Lobo says ousted president can return to Honduras any time

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Honduran President Porfirio Lobo said Wednesday that his ousted predecessor Manuel Zelaya was welcome to return to the country whenever he wanted, and not face prosecution.

"President Zelaya can come back to Honduras whenever he wants," he told a news conference after an EU-Central America conference in the Spanish capital.

"It's a question that we brought up with the (Honduran Supreme) Court and they understand that they cannot put him in prison.

"As we have already had problems with the international community, imagine what it would be like with an ex-president in prison. It's impossible."

Honduras was internationally isolated following the June 28, 2009 coup that saw soldiers oust Zelaya at gunpoint and force him into exile.

Zelaya sneaked back into Tegucigalpa in September and took up refuge in the Brazilian embassy, but failed in his attempt at reinstatement.

He left the embassy for the Dominican Republic with his family in January.

Lobo was elected in a November poll set up under a de facto regime. He granted Zelaya safe passage out of the country upon taking office, and agreed not to arrest him over charges he violated the constitution while in power.

The president attended the EU-Central America conference in Madrid after agreeing not to participate in a wider EU-Latin American summit on Tuesday in Madrid due to a boycott threat by some leaders over his planned presence.

South American nations, apart from Colombia and Peru, dispute his election in a vote organised by the backers of the coup.

Lobo Wednesday also called on Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to send investigators to Honduras to probe the killings of eight journalists since the beginning of the year.

"I would like very much to clear up these killings," he said, adding that the United States was already helping with the investigations.

© 2010 AFP

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