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US Disappointed Over Kenya Impasse, Weighs Penalties  

The United States is expressing disappointment over the continued political impasse in Kenya following last December's disputed election. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the Bush administration is considering penalties against those responsible. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

U.S. frustration was reflected in a written statement by Secretary Rice, who said she is disappointed by the failure of Kenya's leaders to resolve remaining issues, and that there is no excuse for further delay or any more violence.

Rice, who is traveling in Asia, issued the statement after a telephone conversation with former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has been trying to mediate the dispute and has now suspended his talks with the rival parties.

Rice went to Kenya a week ago at the request of President Bush and met with both President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga, whose party claims the December vote was rigged. Post-election violence has killed at least 1,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands more.

The Secretary said both leaders assured her then of their commitment to work out a power-sharing plan, and that she in turn had pledged additional U.S. assistance to help Kenya rebuild, reconcile, and carry out reforms.

In a clear warning to the parties, Rice said the future of the U.S. relationship with both sides, and their legitimacy, hinges on their cooperation in achieving a political solution, and that the United States is exploring a wide range of possible actions. She said U.S. officials will draw their own conclusions about who is responsible for the lack of progress, and take "necessary steps."

In a talk with reporters, State Department Deputy Spokesman Tom Casey declined specifics, but said there are a number of punitive steps available to underline U.S. displeasure over the state of affairs in Kenya:

"I do not want to define it for you, anymore than to say that you have heard from us previously that we cannot conduct business as usual in the absence of an agreement among the parties, and we will be looking at a full range of options that are on the table," said Casey."There are a lot of tools in the tool kit."

Casey noted the United States has already sent letters to several Kenyan political figures, believed to have incited post election violence, warning them they may be declared ineligible to travel to the United States.

The spokesman did not rule out cuts in the U.S. aid program to Kenya.

But he said the great majority of that program is devoted to basic humanitarian projects including dealing with HIV/AIDS. He said no one in Washington believes the Kenyan people should be punished for the failure of their political leaders.