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US Ambassador Calls Kenyan Government Charges 'Propaganda'

The U.S. ambassador to Kenya has angrily denounced print and broadcast advertisements placed by the government of President Mwai Kibaki, which accuses the United States and other Western countries of contributing to post-election violence in the country. VOA Correspondent Alisha Ryu reports from Nairobi that tension between the government and the opposition is growing.

In an editorial in the local Daily Nation newspaper, U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger strongly protested what he called scurrilous propaganda distributed in recent days by the Kenyan government's Office for Public Communications.

Calling President Mwai Kibaki a man of honor, the ambassador said the Kenyan leader may not have known about the advertisements, which he says irresponsibly claimed that speaking the truth about the country's disputed presidential election provided incitement to ethnic violence.

The editorial by the U.S. envoy follows another diplomatic dispute between Kenya and Britain. Monday, the Kibaki government summoned the British High Commissioner to voice its anger over remarks last week in the British House of Commons that the country does not recognize Mr. Kibaki as the winner of the December 27 vote.

The United States and Britain, which consider Kenya a key regional ally, are among a number of Western and African countries that have expressed concern about serious irregularities in the vote counting process that put Mr. Kibaki back in power by a narrow margin over his rival, Raila Odinga.

Kenya exploded in violence as opposition supporters, who allege that Mr. Kibaki stole the election, took to the streets in protest. The police have been accused of shooting dead scores of demonstrators, following what the opposition calls an unofficial shoot-to-kill policy.

The election result also unleashed horrific ethnic bloodletting in the capital and other parts of the country, which the government says was pre-planned by the opposition.

The unrest has severely damaged one of the continent's most-promising economies and Kenya's image as a stable, democratic nation in a turbulent region.

Western powers have urged both sides to resolve the crisis through dialogue.

Political analyst Wafula Okumu, of the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa, says there are hardliners in the Kibaki government, who may view the West as an obstacle.

"There is a lot of frustration on the part of the government," Okumu said. "By not being recognized by other countries, that leaves a big question mark on his (Kibaki's) legitimacy. I think the summoning of the British high commissioner, the taking-on of the American ambassador - all these are acts of frustration and they see that there is nothing that is going to come from the international community other than pressure and the pressure, I think, is mounting."

The latest mediation effort to break the political deadlock is being led by former U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan.

The 69-year-old African statesman is also under enormous pressure to produce an agreement that eluded African Union chief, John Kufuor, during his two-day visit earlier this month.

The Kibaki government says it is willing to talk to the opposition, but has dismissed the need for mediators. The government insists all complaints about the election should be addressed through the courts, which is perceived by many Kenyans as being biased toward the government.

The opposition says it will not back down from its demand for the president's resignation and a rerun of the vote.