The Honduran congress has delayed a vote on whether to reinstate Manuel Zelaya, the ousted president, until after a November 29 general election, putting paid to hopes of a quick end to the country's political deadlock.
The decision raises questions about whether the international community will recognise the results of the election.
Latin American countries have said they will refuse to do so unless Zelaya is returned to office before the vote.
A pact to end the crisis stipulated that a congressional vote on reinstating Zelaya should be implemented, but it never set a date and the October accord collapsed within a week as both sides failed to form a unity government.
"We've decided to convene sessions for December 2," Jose Saavedra, the head of congress, told reporters,
He added that politicians expected the country's supreme court to give an opinion next week on whether Zelaya should be returned to power until a new president is sworn in in January.
Zelaya, who has been living at the Brazilian embassy in the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa since returning to the country in September, initially welcomed the US-brokered pact, which he said was meant to reinstate him.
'Prudent silence' urged
But he said last week he would refuse to return to the presidency as part of any negotiated deal, saying to do so would legitimise the coup and the presidential election, which he is urging his supporters to boycott.
Zelaya was sent into exile in his pyjamas by soldiers on June 28 and a de facto government led by Roberto Micheletti took charge.
Micheletti praised the decision by congress to set a date to vote on Zelaya's fate and said it showed all state institutions were "working together to solve the current political situation".
He also urged Zelaya to maintain "prudent silence" in the run-up to the national election.
Zelaya was accused by critics of trying to illegally change the constitution to scrap presidential term limits so he could stay in power - a charge he denies.