Annan suspends Kenya negotiations

WEDNESDAY, FEB. 27, 2008

NAIROBI, Kenya – Complaining that efforts to resolve Kenya’s political crisis have stalled, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Tuesday suspended mediation talks and called upon the nation’s presidential rivals to work with him directly.

“We cannot continue on the current basis,” Annan told reporters Tuesday evening, after a daylong session with negotiating teams representing government and opposition sides ended in insults and acrimony. “We were turning around in circles.”

Also Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who visited Kenya last week to urge a settlement, expressed disappointment in what she called a “failure of leadership.” She warned that the U.S. would take “necessary steps” to punish those it deems responsible for torpedoing negotiations.

“I want to emphasize that the future of our relationship with both sides and their legitimacy hinges on their cooperation to achieve this political solution,” Rice said in a statement issued from China, where she is currently traveling.

Rice did not provide specifics on what steps the U.S. might take, but U.S. officials in recent weeks have threatened to reduce aid to Kenya or impose travel restrictions against leaders.

More than 1,000 people have been killed in this once-peaceful East African nation since a disputed Dec. 27 presidential ballot that uncorked decades of economic frustration and ethnic tensions. Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga claim they won the election, which international observers say was marred by widespread tallying irregularities.

Last week, Annan, who has been in Kenya since Jan. 22 to oversee African Union-led mediation efforts, expressed optimism that a compromise was imminent, saying he could see “light at the end of the tunnel.”

But on Tuesday he said that little progress had been made this week. Annan stressed that talks had not broken down permanently, but he said they had reached a stalemate that only the two principles can resolve.


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