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AU chief meets Kenyan and opposition leaders
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The chairman of the African Union (AU) John Kufuor is holding separate talks with Kenya's key political leaders on Wednesday to mediate an end to the political crisis that has left nearly 500 people dead.


Ghanaian President John Kufuor met briefly with President Mwai Kibaki before holding talks with opposition leader Raila Odinga.


"Diplomacy does not require matters which are very sensitive to be discussed through the media. President Kufuor has met with Odinga and later with party officials and has returned to State House for further discussions with President Kibaki," Odinga's spokesman Salim Lone told journalists.


Kufuor's visit is expected to build on the mediation efforts of the top U.S. diplomat on Africa, Jendayi Frazer, who has spent several days shuttling between the two sides.


But the AU chairman's efforts were complicated Tuesday when his Kenyan counterpart unveiled half the members of his new Cabinet, none of which are members of Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement party.


"We tabled all our demands which included retallying of the votes but as you know these matters are very sensitive to be discussed here. Kufuor would be available for questions at the end of his visit," Lone said.


Odinga's ODM denounced cabinet appointments as evidence Kibaki is unwilling to negotiate an end to a stalemate following last month's disputed presidential election.


Odinga has turned down the president's offer to hold face-to- face talks on Friday, saying he would do so only in the presence of an international mediator.


Foreign envoys have criticized president's move to appointed ministers, saying it would derail peace negotiations.


U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has extended the diplomatic mission of Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Frazer.


U.S. officials say Rice told Frazer to stay in the region for as long as she thinks her presence can be useful to defuse the Kenyan crisis.


The post-election violence was sparked after Odinga and his supporters accused Kibaki of rigging the Dec. 27 vote to ensure his victory.


After holding talks with AU chairman, Kibaki flew to the western town of Eldoret where he visited one of the worst hit areas in the violence that followed his re-election and warned the perpetrators that they will face the full force of the law.


Kibaki said the government will not shirk from its responsibility of protecting people and their properties. He warned those engaged in criminal activities under the guise of election being disaffected with the results of the recent general elections that they would be arrested and prosecuted.


"There is a government in place in this country which has the responsibility to the people of Kenya for their security. Let no one therefore delude themselves that they can get away with crimes, " he said.


Kibaki said his government had put in place appropriate security arrangement to ensure the reopening of schools was not disrupted in the affected areas and asked parents to take their children back to school when they reopen on Monday.


Some 500 people are feared to have been killed, and over 250, 000 displaced, by post-election violence in Kenya, previously seen as a beacon of stability in east Africa.


(Xinhua News Agency January 10, 2008)

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