Kenyan opposition rally cancelled as Annan continues talks

( dpa ) - A rally set to be staged by Kenya's embittered opposition Thursday over disputed polls was cancelled after mediator and former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan urged the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) to hold off on any more demonstrations.

Annan arrived in the country Tuesday evening and held talks with ODM leader Raila Odinga as well as the main opposition group's leaders on Wednesday in a fresh bid to bring a resolution to the crisis that has plunged the ordinarily peaceful country into violence.

The independent Daily Nation reported that the protests, which in the last few weeks have triggered deadly violence between police and opposition supporters, were halted "to give mediation a chance," according to Odinga.

On Thursday, Annan was set to meet President Mwai Kibaki, who is charged with rigging last month's elections, and who has been criticized for allowing excessive force by police against Odinga supporters.

Odinga has called for a recount in the presidential polls that were largely seen as flawed, but Kibaki's camp has urged the opposition to take their grievances to court.

The elections set off violence nationwide, which continues to plague the slums in the capital Nairobi as well as parts of the Rift Valley province, with both sides accusing the other of "ethnic cleansing" and "crimes against humanity."

Nearly 700 people have been killed and 250,000 displaced in the clashes that have exposed Kenya's deep ethnic rifts.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Odinga denied the opposition leader told German TV he was ready to share power with Kibaki as an "executive premier," calling the assertion "absolutely false."

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