Britain renews call for Kenya to allow AU boss to mediate

( AFP ) - Britain on Friday called on Kenya's political leaders to allow the head of the African Union to visit the country to mediate in the violent post-election dispute after his scheduled trip was cancelled.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Ghanaian President John Kufuor could play a "critical" role in resolving the impasse between the bitterly opposed factions in the wake of last week's disputed election result.

Ghanaian and Commonwealth officials confirmed earlier Friday that Kufuor's trip, which had been planned as part of a joint AU-Commonwealth mediation effort, had been cancelled as the AU and Ghana had failed to consult Kenya.

Kufuor had been proposed as a mediator by Prime Minister Gordon Brown with former Sierra Leone president Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, who headed a Commonwealth election monitoring team for the December 27 poll.

Despite the setback, and amid unhappiness from defeated presidential candidate Raila Odinga that London -- Kenya's former colonial master -- was imposing a mediator, Miliband said an international presence in Kenya was still "vital."

"We believe all of Kenya's political leaders should welcome his (Kufuor's) offer to play a key role in resolving this crisis, and call on them to facilitate his journey to the country as soon as possible," he added.

He also reiterated his joint call with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for reconciliation between re-elected President Mwai Kibaki and Odinga, who has alleged vote-rigging.

Political and tribal violence has since claimed more than 350 lives.

Miliband said that by working together, Kenya's political leaders could rebuild the confidence of their own people and the international community in the democratic process.

But he warned: "Fail to compromise and they forfeit confidence, goodwill and support.

" Kenya's leaders need to know the seriousness with which the international community views the situation and its shared determination to pursue all avenues to promote a peaceful way forward."

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