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Kenya's PM says Zimbabwe's President Should Resign


Kenya's Prime Minister Raila Odinga is calling for the world community to demand that Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe step down. Mr. Odinga strongly criticized Zimbabwe's longtime leader during a visit to Washington. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel has details.

Prime Minister Odinga told reporters that Zimbabwe's run-off presidential vote, currently scheduled for June 27, is a "sham."

Mr. Odinga says conditions do not exist in Zimbabwe for free elections, citing beatings, arrests, arson and the repeated detention of opposition leaders.

The Kenyan prime minister says 100,000 soldiers in Zimbabwe have already voted and the election is therefore "pre-rigged."

"Under the circumstances my view would be for the international community to insist that Mugabe step down and that you send an international peacekeeping force in Zimbabwe to preside over an organization of free and fair elections, post-Mugabe," he said.

Earlier, during a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Mr. Odinga lashed out at Mr. Mugabe saying Zimbabwe is a blot on the landscape of Africa.

"Zimbabwe is an eyesore, an embarrassment to the African continent, an example of how not to do it in Africa," he added. "It is sad that many African heads of state are quiet when the disaster is looming in Zimbabwe."

This is Mr. Odinga's first visit to the United States since being named prime minister in a power-sharing coalition government in April.

The deal was aimed at restoring order to Kenya after December's disputed elections triggered weeks of deadly violence that killed more than 1,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands of others.

Prime Minister Odinga says his country is taking steps towards democracy.

"We are determined to show that in Africa a country can rise from crisis like Kenya and move toward prosperity," he explained.

Mr. Odinga hailed the rise of Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama, saying Kenyans are excited that he is the son of a Kenyan and has a positive attitude towards Africa.

"He is talking the language of change," he noted. "They hope that this change will translate into something more positive in as far as American policy towards Africa is concerned. That the U.S. will pay much more attention to Africa."

During his visit to the United States, Prime Minister Odinga is scheduled to hold talks with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and international financial institutions.