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US Sending Envoy to Seek Kenyan Dialogue

The Bush administration is sending its senior Africa diplomat to Kenya to try to encourage political dialogue between the principals in last week's bitterly disputed presidential election. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

State Department officials say Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer is not going to Kenya to try to mediate the election dispute or to prescribe any particular solution to the conflict that has spurred widespread rioting and hundreds of deaths.

However, they say Frazer does intend to meet with both President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga to personally appeal for the political reconciliation that senior U.S., African and other leaders have been calling for.

Spokesman Sean McCormack said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made the decision to send Frazer after morning telephone conversations on Kenya with, among others, President Kibaki and, European Union chief diplomat Javier Solana.

"Her presence there could be a way to encourage them, to get together. It's also certainly a way that we can more directly try to encourage them to get together and open up that dialogue," said McCormack. "The Secretary's phone calls are one way. Public statements are another way. But Secretary Rice decided this morning that it was important to send Jendayi [Frazer] out to Kenya to try to bring that message directly to the leaders."

McCormack said the Frazer mission will be relatively brief and told reporters not to expect an effort by her to arrange a three-way meeting with President Kibaki and Odinga.

The crisis began last week after Mr. Kibaki was declared the election winner despite early tallies showing Odinga leading the vote count.

The United States initially congratulated Mr. Kibaki but later rescinded the statement as European Union and other observers reported vote irregularities.

Since then, the Bush administration has pressed for a political accommodation between the sides that will end the violence but has declined to offer any specific proposals, at least in public.

In keeping with that, McCormack distanced himself from a European Union statement that in their conversation Thursday, Rice and Solana endorsed the creation of Kenyan national unity government.

He also downplayed the notion, advanced by the EU, that the United States and European Union would send a joint mediation team to Kenya.

The U.S. spokesman said there had already been several offers of good offices in the Kenyan crisis, by among others South African Nobel Peace Laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu and Ghanaian President John Kufuor on behalf of the African Union.

Aides to President Kibaki have said outside intervention is not needed, but Spokesman McCormack said he expects that Frazer will be able to see both principles in the conflict.

He said she will also meet with leaders of Kenyan civil society to see what ideas they may have for defusing one of the worst crises since Kenya's independence in 1963.