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Kenya diplomatic push for peace

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04.JAN.08

Both sides in Kenya’s disputed election have accused the other of violence as diplomatic efforts to defuse the country’s political crisis intensify.

The US and UK are calling for opponents to work together and an African Union delegation, led by Ghana’s President John Kufuor, is due in Kenya for talks.{{more}}

About 300 people have now died in the post-poll bloodshed, including 35 burned to death sheltering in a church.

Many Kenyans have been forced to take refuge from armed mobs and looters.

Police in the capital Nairobi have set up barricades at the major roundabouts into the city and halted traffic.

As commuters cautiously start the working year, there are fears of renewed violence if a rally planned by the political opposition for Thursday goes ahead.

Tens of thousands of people have already fled their homes amid the unrest.

Mwai Kibaki, who was officially re-elected president in last week Thursday’s vote, and opposition leader Raila Odinga, who says he was robbed of victory by fraud, traded accusations while calling for an end to the killing.

A government spokesman told the BBC Mr Odinga’s supporters were “engaging in ethnic cleansing”, while Mr Odinga said Mr Kibaki’s camp was “guilty, directly, of genocide”.

Asked if he would urge his supporters to calm down, Mr Odinga told the BBC: “I refuse to be asked to give the Kenyan people an anaesthetic so that they can be raped.”

The African Union chairman, Ghanaian President John Kufuor, is due to visit the former British colony.

UK Foreign Minister David Miliband and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have issued a joint statement urging both sides to “engage in a spirit of compromise”.

BBC world affairs correspondent Paul Reynolds says that what the US and UK mean by that phrase is there should be a government of national unity.

The message of the African Union chairman, whose visit is fully backed by Britain and the US, is expected to be the same, according to our correspondent.

The joint US-UK statement noted reports of “serious irregularities” in the vote count but urged Kenya’s political leaders to unite in calling for an end to the bloodshed. (BBC)

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