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Kenyan Opposition Suspends Demonstrations


Kenya's opposition party says it is suspending anti-government demonstrations planned for Thursday despite the lack of progress toward resolving the country's ongoing political crisis. The opposition said the postponement was made at the request of former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan who is trying to broker a power sharing deal between the two sides. VOA's Scott Bobb reports from Nairobi.

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga suspended demonstrations planned for Thursday after meeting Wednesday with chief mediator Kofi Annan.

"I would like to announce here and now on behalf of our movement that we will postpone, we have therefore postponed until further notice any kind of actions that were intended for tomorrow [Thursday]," he said.

Mr. Odinga said his Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) remained committed to the success of the talks and did not wish to put roadblocks in their way. There were fears that the protests might degenerate into violence as they did after the results were announced for the disputed presidential election.

Mr. Annan also met with President Mwai Kibaki who issued a statement saying the differences between the two parties were not insurmountable.

The former U.N. Secretary-General suspended the talks Tuesday saying progress was too slow and the negotiators appeared to have lost the will to compromise. He said he would engage directly with the leaders of the two sides to try to break the impasse.

"I think the issues that divide the parties are bridgeable, but it does require political will, leadership and wisdom to move forward," he said.

He said the parties know the Kenyan people have been traumatized by the violence that killed 1,000 people and displaced several hundred thousand. And he said they are aware of the need to reach a solution so that the country can move forward.

Mr. Annan did not say when the talks might resume. The suspension brought a quick reaction from the United States and the European Commission, which reiterated that those who blocked a solution to the crisis would face sanctions.

The head of the African Union, Tanzania's President Jakaya Kikwete, arrived in Nairobi Wednesday and met separately with Mr. Odinga and Mr. Kibaki. He expressed confidence in the process.

The two sides have agreed in principle to the creation of the post of prime minister. But they have not been able to agree on the powers accorded the post. The opposition wants the prime minister to be head-of-government with control over the ministries while the government wants the position to be subordinate to the presidency.

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