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TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Honduras's post-coup de facto leader said on Friday he would give up his presidential duties for a week, a step Washington welcomed as a way to help ease a five-month-old political crisis.
Roberto Micheletti, who took power after President Manuel Zelaya was sent into exile by soldiers in June, said on Thursday he might step aside between November 25 and December 2 to allow voters to focus on a November 29 presidential election.
"It's a temporary absence to give room to the new Honduran president, to the candidates," Micheletti told local television, confirming the plan he outlined a day earlier.
He spoke hours after the U.S. State Department said his proposal could help efforts to resolve the crisis, which is overshadowing campaigning for the presidential election.
"This will allow some breathing space for the process in Honduras to go forward," State Department spokesman Robert Wood told a news briefing in Washington.
Zelaya, who has taken refuge at the Brazilian embassy after sneaking back into the coffee-exporting Central American country in September, has condemned Micheletti's move and said he should go for good.
Wood said Washington continued to believe the best way to resolve the crisis was through a pact it brokered in late October that quickly foundered as the rival sides failed to form a unity government.
"If we are going to address the questions of restoring democracy, if we are going to deal with the question of reconciliation, the best way to do this is to move forward with the implementation of the accord," Wood said.
Zelaya has refused to return to the presidency as part of any negotiated deal, saying this would legitimize the coup and next week's presidential poll, which he says is illegal.
Latin American leaders have called for Zelaya's immediate reinstatement.
But the United States appeared to weaken his position recently by saying recognition of the presidential election was not contingent on Zelaya's return to office until his term officially ends in January.
(Reporting by Gustavo Palencia in Tegucigalpa and Andrew Quinn in Washington; Editing by John O'Callaghan)