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Kofi Annan embarks on final push to extract a compromise from Kenya's feuding leaders

Kofi Annan embarks on final push to extract a compromise from Kenya's feuding leaders

Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan was to meet Kenya's president and the main opposition leader Wednesday, pushing them to compromise on power sharing to end their country's deadly political crisis.
Two months since a presidential vote the opposition accuses the president of stealing, Annan suspended monthlong talks between the two political parties on Tuesday, saying he would personally appeal to their leaders to strike a deal because talks were "turning around in circles."
The opposition has called for mass rallies on Thursday if no tangible progress has been made by then. Past rallies turned violent as police pushed back crowds, and police have yet to say if they will issue permits for demonstrations Thursday. The government has urged Kenyans to boycott the rallies
Kenyan papers voiced exasperation Wednesday.
"If violence breaks out and drives this country into civil war ... then the blood of its victims will be in the hands of politicians who made it impossible for Dr. Annan to reunite Kenya," Kenya's independent Daily Nation charged in an editorial.
Both President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga claim they won Kenya's Dec. 27 presidential election. Local and international observers have said the results were manipulated, making it unclear who won.
Annan convened talks between the two sides, but said Tuesday he was suspending them in order "to speed up action," as the negotiating teams "were discussing issues that the parties seemed incapable of solving." He was scheduled to meet with Kibaki and Odinga separately Wednesday, according to party spokesmen.
Postelection violence has largely subsided in recent weeks. But attacks that killed more than 1,000 people and forced 600,000 from their homes have left Kenyans worried about the potential for more turmoil in a country once seen as a beacon of stability in Africa. Kenya's economy has struggled to recover from a severe drop in tourist dollars during the high season.
International pressure on the two sides has been mounting. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who visited Kenya earlier this month to urge progress, said U.S. relations with any future Kenyan administration are at stake.
"I want to emphasize that the future of our relationship with both sides and their legitimacy hinges on their cooperation to achieve this political solution," Rice said in a statement, without elaborating.
On Wednesday, the European Union also condemned the lack of progress and threatened to take unspecified action to pressure Kenya's leaders.
"Individuals who obstruct the National Dialogue process or who encourage violence will have to face the consequences," the EU commissioner for development and humanitarian aid, Louis Michel, said in a statement. "The European Union is determined to take all appropriate measures and all options are being considered."
Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, the current head of the African Union, flew into Nairobi to add to international appeals for a deal. He also is scheduled to meet with Kibaki and Odinga on Wednesday.
Kenyan Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula criticized the implied threats from foreign powers like the United States, saying the international community is welcome to make suggestions "but not to impose solutions."
Negotiators for Kibaki and Odinga have agreed in principle to create a new prime minister's post for the opposition, but sticking points remain over just how much power such a post would carry. Negotiators on both sides said Tuesday that they were committed to continuing the talks and blamed the suspension on intransigence from the other side.
The delays have frustrated Kenyans, many of whom have seen their jobs and homes destroyed in the chaos.
"It is Raila and Kibaki alone who can solve this thing," said Ronnie Mdwawida, a 39-year-old social worker in the capital, Nairobi. "The future of Kenya is at the mercy of these two leaders."
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Associated Press writers Elizabeth A. Kennedy, Tom Maliti and Tom Odula contributed to this report.