UPDATE 2-Zelaya says may leave Honduras at end of mandate

Thu Jan 21, 2010 10:19am IST

* Zelaya welcomes Dominican Republic offer to host him

* He tells radio station he could leave on Jan. 27 (Recasts with fresh Zelaya quotes)

TEGUCIGALPA Jan 20 (Reuters) - Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya said on Wednesday he may leave the country under an agreement with the newly elected president, bringing an end to his state of political limbo after a June coup.

Zelaya, holed up in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa since he slipped back into Honduras in September, said he welcomed an offer to enter the Dominican Republic as an "honored guest" from President Leonel Fernandez, who signed an agreement with Honduran President-elect Porfirio Lobo.

"This agreement allows me to maintain my dignity and the position bestowed on me by the people" of Honduras, Zelaya said in a statement.

The accord, signed in Santo Domingo on Wednesday by Lobo, Fernandez and representatives of Honduras' major political parties, stipulates Zelaya, his family members and his circle of advisers can enter the Dominican Republic on Jan. 27.

Lobo is set to take office on Jan. 27 after winning a November election, which many nations denounced as illegitimate because it was organized by the de facto government that toppled Zelaya.

Zelaya told a local radio station he "could leave on the 27 when my mandate is over."

Soldiers whisked Zelaya out of his home at gunpoint in June on an order from the Supreme Court after he angered the country's business leaders and members of his own party with a bid to change the constitution, which is illegal under Honduran law.

His critics accused him of trying to stay in office past his term, following in the footsteps of Venezuela's socialist President Hugo Chavez, a charge Zelaya denies.

Despite Zelaya's objections, there is a pending order for his arrest in Honduras, which he skirted by seeking refuge in the diplomatic grounds of the Brazilian embassy.

By leaving the country, he would avoid capture but essentially end to his political career in Honduras. (Reporting by Gustavo Palencia in Tegucigalpa and Manuel Jimenez in Santo Domingo; writing by Mica Rosenberg; editing by Mohammad Zargham)