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US Says Political Accord in Kenya Overdue

The United States Thursday renewed its call on Kenya's government and political opposition to end clashes and resolve the conflict stemming from last month's disputed elections. The State Department said it holds both sides responsible for the violence and that an accord is overdue. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

Officials here say while the United States strongly upholds the right of peaceful protest, energies now being devoted to street confrontations in Kenya would better be channeled into efforts to resolve the crisis peacefully.

The comments reflect international frustration over the failure of Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga to reach an accommodation and end violence that continues to claim lives three weeks after the disputed vote.

In a talk with reporters, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said the rivals need to come together in the interests of Kenya and its future, and that both sides must share blame for the fact the violence continues:

"They bear equal responsibility for the fact there is not a political settlement. And there is a direct connection between the violence you are seeing, and the failure to reach a political accommodation," he said. "They both bear equal responsibility for that fact. So it is beyond time for them to come together, open up those channels of communication, and focus all of their efforts on trying to reach a political accommodation."

The Kenyan crisis has continued despite mediation efforts by, among others, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer and Ghanaian President John Kufuor in his capacity as African Union chief.

Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is to take over the international mediation role, though he has delayed his mission due to a severe case of flu.

Under questioning, Spokesman McCormack said Ms. Frazer would not return to Kenya in the interim, but said the United States and other concerned countries are discussing "a couple" of other measures that might be taken to spur a Kenyan settlement.

McCormack did not elaborate on such steps. But he downplayed reports that sanctions might be applied against political hardliners in the Kenyan dispute, or that international donors might band together and withhold aid to Kenya.

The opposition is staging daily rallies this week in further protest of what it says was a rigged vote December 27 in which Mr. Kibaki was declared the winner.

McCormack said peaceful protests are a fundamental right, but that one could "rightly ask" whether energy being devoted to street clashes would be better directed at reconciliation.

Asked if the Bush administration is exasperated over the continuing deadlock, the spokesman said being exasperated is luxury the United States cannot afford.