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Rights Group Calls on Kenyan Police to Use Restraint

A prominent human rights group has called on Kenyan police to avoid using excessive force when dealing with expected opposition protests this week.

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch says Kenyan security forces have a duty to rein in criminal violence but should not turn their weapons on peaceful demonstrators.

In a report Sunday, the group said police have shot and killed dozens of people while trying to stop protests and looting sparked by last month's disputed presidential election.

Today, the Kenyan Red Cross Society raised its overall death toll from post-election violence to 575.

The opposition Orange Democratic Movement maintains President Mwai Kibaki stole the election and has called for three days of protest rallies beginning Wednesday. Kenyan authorities have banned the rallies, prompting fears of new clashes between protesters and police.

On Saturday, the top U.S. diplomat to Africa urged President Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga to meet without preconditions.

Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer also said the two men should acknowledge what she called serious irregularities in the vote-counting. She said those irregularities make it impossible to determine with certainty who won the December 27 election.

Frazer and African Union Chairman John Kufuor tried without success last week to arrange a meeting or an agreement between the two men in hopes of ending Kenya's political crisis.

The post-election violence across Kenya has displaced an estimated 250-thousand people. U.N. relief agencies have begun providing food, water, soap, and other supplies to displaced families.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP.