U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has extended the Kenya trouble-shooting mission of Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer. Frazer went to Kenya last week to try to encourage dialogue between the principals in the country's bitter election dispute. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

Administration officials here say Rice has told Assistant Secretary Frazer to stay in the region for as long as she thinks her presence can be useful in trying to defuse the Kenyan crisis.

State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters Frazer was to meet in Nairobi Tuesday with Ghanaian President John Kufuor, who is beginning a Kenya mediation mission in his role as current head of the African Union.

McCormack said Frazer will visit the Comoros Islands Wednesday for talks with officials there. She'll then return to Kenya for another try at brokering talks between President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga, who Tuesday rejected an offer from the president to meet:

"We're encouraging both sides to communicate with one another," McCormack said. "There are a lot of different ways to do that and to be constructive in their communications. There had been some indications that they were ready to do that. There are others that they were not quite ready to do that face-to-face. But we think that is of primary importance: that they open up those channels of communication."

McCormack said Frazer can assist the parties, but that what is ultimately needed is a Kenyan solution both sides can live with that ends the crisis and forecloses the possibility of further bloodshed.

Violence claiming hundreds of lives erupted after Mr. Kibaki was declared the winner of the December 27 presidential election after challenger Odinga had led in the early vote tallies.

International observers had said there were irregularities in the vote-count and Frazer said Monday there had been election rigging, though she declined to blame either of the principals.

Bush administration efforts at dialogue have been supported by Democratic Senator and Presidential contender Barack Obama, whose father was born in Kenya.

The senator telephoned opposition leader Odinga Monday and is understood to be planning a call to President Kibaki.

McCormack said the senator told the State Department in advance of his plans to contact the parties and that administration officials do not object:

"He's a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee," McCormack said. "He has an interest in the issue. And anytime you have a person of stature, and I would count a United States senator as a person of stature, who's pushing for peaceful, political resolution, that's a positive thing."

Senator Obama discussed the Kenyan crisis with Secretary of State Rice last week and made a broadcast appeal on VOA for Kenyan reconciliation.