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Britain Calls for End to Kenya Violence


Britain has called on Kenya's political leaders to urge their followers to stop the violence that has claimed hundreds of lives in the aftermath of the disputed presidential poll. From London, Tendai Maphosa has more.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband made the call in a BBC radio interview. He said that because of irregularities reported by the European Union observer team, all legal and political avenues have to be explored to make sure the election result is seen as fair.

But Miliband stopped short of accusing the declared winner, President Mwai Kibaki, of stealing the election as his challenger Raila Odinga has alleged.

"What we know is that there are very serious allegations of irregularities on both sides, it has to be said," he explained. "We do not know who won. Secondly, we know there are real responsibilities on both sides, in a situation like this, to ensure that the political system is maintained."

He said there is no question of accepting the level of election irregularities and violence prevailing in Kenya at the moment. He also said any sanctions against Kenya's government would depend on who they would hurt, given that most of the trade between Britain and its former colony benefits ordinary Kenyans.

But the leader of Britain's opposition Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, was on the same radio program as Miliband. He was clear about what needs to be done.

"I think we should specify that within a very short period of time, let us say two weeks, there needs to be a full recount under international supervision and that if that does not take place the consequences are quite specific too, that I think the position of Kenya in the Commonwealth should be put into question," he said. "I think the European Union, which is the largest trading bloc for Kenya by a long way, should be prepared to use economic sanctions, particularly targeted sanctions against members of the ruling party."

As diplomatic efforts to end the violence intensified, Miliband and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice issued a joint statement welcoming the call by the African Union for an end to the violence. The statement applauded the commitment of the European Union and the Commonwealth as well as the African Union to stay engaged at what they described as "this important moment for democracy in Africa".

The two officials asked Kenya's political leaders to engage in a spirit of compromise that puts the country's democratic interests first.

The statement congratulated the people of Kenya on their commitment to democracy, but also noted independent reports of serious irregularities in the vote-counting process.

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