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TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Honduras's de facto leader said he may give up his presidential duties for a week so voters can focus on an election that Washington hopes will help end a five-month-old political crisis.
Voters in the impoverished central American country are due to elect a new president on November 29, but campaigning has been overshadowed by fallout from a military coup that toppled President Manuel Zelaya in June.
"I plan to be absent from my public duties for a period that could begin on November 25 and end on December 2," Roberto Micheletti, the de factor leader, said in a televised address on Thursday.
"The goal of this measure is for all Hondurans to concentrate on the electoral process and not on the political crisis."
But Micheletti said had not yet made a final decision on whether he would step aside for a week.
Zelaya, who has been holed up at the Brazilian embassy since sneaking back into the country in September, dismissed Micheletti's comments as "a whitewash."
"His manoeuvre to pretend he'll step down for a week is a false manoeuvre," he told local radio. "We ask him to go forever."
Washington brokered a pact to end the crisis in late October but the accord crumbled within days as the rival sides failed to form a unity government.
Zelaya initially welcomed the pact, which he said was meant to reinstate him to finish his term as president of the coffee- and textile-producing country, one of Latin America's poorest.
However, he has since vowed to refuse to return to the presidency as part of any negotiated deal, saying to do so would legitimize the coup and the presidential election, which he is urging his supporters to boycott.
A logging magnate who irked the nation's elite by forming close ties with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Zelaya also said the ballot should be postponed, saying the crisis over the presidency needed to be resolved first.
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.
(Reporting by Gustavo Palencia and Helen Popper; editing by Chris Wilson)

Reuters