Monday, February 18, 2008

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenya’s foreign minister, speaking a day before the expected arrival of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, warned yesterday that any plan imposed by foreigners to end the country’s bloody political crisis would ultimately fail.

The U.S. is pushing Kenya’s rival politicians to strike a power-sharing deal to end the turmoil that has engulfed much of the country since a flawed Dec. 27 presidential vote. More than 1,000 people have been killed and some 600,000 forced from their homes.

Kenya’s political leaders have welcomed help from abroad, and former U.N. chief Kofi Annan is mediating ongoing talks. But Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula insisted yesterday that no solution be imposed from the outside.

The result of the talks “must be a Kenyan solution,” he said. “Anything less will be superficial and perhaps counterproductive.” No one, he warned, should “make a mistake of putting a gun on anybody’s head.”

President Bush said on Saturday that Washington wanted to see a power-sharing deal, and the top State Department official for Africa warned that Washington is considering targeted sanctions on those standing in the way of an agreement.

Mr. Bush was more measured yesterday, saying the U.S. is looking at “how best we can help the process — not what we should do to dictate the process, but what America can do to help the process move along.”

Mr. Bush, speaking in neighboring Tanzania during a five-nation Africa tour, said he was sending Miss Rice to meet today in Kenya with Mr. Annan, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga, who claims election fraud.

Miss Rice “doesn’t expect, I don’t think, to come away tomorrow with a final deal,” White House press secretary Dana Perino said. But she noted encouraging signs in Kenya, with discussions indicating that leaders are “inching their way closer” to resolving the dispute.

Mr. Annan, a native of the West African nation of Ghana, announced Friday that the rivals had agreed to an independent review of the election. But Mr. Odinga and Mr. Kibaki remain deadlocked on proposals to share power, and the two sides have not agreed on whether to hold a rerun election as the opposition has demanded.

A preliminary agreement signed Thursday calls for an independent review committee to investigate the 2007 presidential election and issue a report in three to six months. The deal also calls for the two sides to draw up a new constitution within a year, which could pave the way for a prime minister’s post or another way to share power.

Mr. Odinga promised supporters Saturday that the negotiations would succeed.

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