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Negotiators Say Kenyan Political Talks Making Progress

  • Scott Bobb

In Kenya, government and opposition negotiators have wrapped up a week of talks saying progress has been made toward resolving the crisis over December's elections. However, chief negotiator Kofi Annan says details still need to be worked out. VOA's Scott Bobb reports from Nairobi.

Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who is mediating the Kenya talks, said Friday that the government and opposition have agreed that a negotiated agreement is needed to end the crisis that has killed 1,000 people and displaced 300,000 across the country.

"We are all agreed that a political settlement is needed, that a political settlement is necessary and we are now in the process of discussing the deals, working out the terms of that settlement," Annan said.

He said Friday's session was very good and he hoped to announce a deal next week.

Annan made the remark after meeting President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga during which he said appealed to both leaders to support their negotiators and encourage a settlement. He also suggested parliament be convened to discuss the crisis.

Considerable progress has been reported since the talks began one week ago. But a government negotiator, Parliament Member Mutula Kilonzo, told VOA that several major obstacles remain.

"We are making extremely good progress," said Kilonzo. "The three issues are being discussed. They have probably in fact, let me say, been narrowed to one now. So that should tell you."

Kenya was wracked by a wave of violence after the opposition Orange Democratic Movement party accused the government of rigging the December vote in order to give President Mwai Kibaki a second term.

The talks, which began one week ago, stalled over the opposition's demand that Mr. Kibaki resign. But opposition leader Raila Odinga Thursday indicated a new flexibility over this point.

"But we say that we are not static on that point. We are willing to move, we are willing to yield some ground so that an acceptable solution can be found," he said.

The opposition also reportedly wants an all-party interim government to be sworn in until a new presidential poll can be held. The Kibaki team reportedly rejected these demands.

Among the diplomatic delegations seeking to encourage a political solution, the European Union's Development Commissioner, Louis Michel, expressed optimism over the talks after meetings with Odinga and Mr. Kibaki.

"There is now a mood and conditions to negotiate a good and balanced agreement. The international community and the European Commission and the European Union, we are very concerned about the situation in this country," said Michel.

Foreign Ministers from the IGAD block of East African nations Friday concluded a two-day visit expressing regional support for the talks.

And the United Nations Security Council issued a statement urging the government without delay to dismantle armed gangs, improve the humanitarian situation and restore human rights.

The United States Thursday announced a ban on five Kenyan politicians and five businessmen allegedly involved in the violence. Canada also announced a ban on leaders who in its words "disrupt the democratic process." And the United Kingdom has threatened similar sanctions.

Kenyan officials Friday rejected the sanctions.