Kenya's opposition puts off protests to let Annan mediate

Other News Materials 27 February 2008 15:20 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - Kenya's opposition said Wednesday it would postpone demonstrations it had threatened to hold Thursday after mediator and former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan asked that the protests be called off.

Annan suspended the talks meant to end the crisis over disputed polls Tuesday after he said no progress was made to come to a political settlement, saying he would instead deal directly with President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga to break the deadlock.

"We will postpone until further notice any kind of action intended for tomorrow," Odinga told reporters after meeting Annan.

Mass demonstrations in January turned violent as Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement supporters came up against police who used tear gas and live ammunition to prevent them from reaching the rallies.

Annan seemed less frustrated Wednesday after meeting Kibaki and Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, who is in the country in his capacity as head of the African Union, which is sponsoring the Annan-led talks.

"The issues that divide the parties are bridgeable but do require political will, leadership and wisdom to move forward," he said.

Meanwhile, 24 diplomatic missions in Kenya as well as the European Union's aid chief Louis Michel warned that those who were hindering a solution would face consequences, echoing a statement by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday.

"We reiterate the position of many in the international community that attempts to undermine or obstruct such an agreement will not be viewed lightly and those identified as being involved will have to face the consequences of their actions," said a statement by the group of 24.

The ordinarily optimistic Annan insisted Tuesday the negotiations had not broken down but a source close to the talks said Annan felt the negotiators lacked good will to find a meaningful solution.

Both sides agreed to the creation of a prime minister but the discussions reached a standstill over the powers the post would wield. The government was also hesitant to immediately change the constitution to allow for such a post.

Much hangs on the success of the talks, with militias said to be arming themselves and preparing for a new front should they fail.

More than 1,000 people have been killed in the violence that gripped Kenya after December's polls, which Kibaki is charged with rigging, marking a disturbing change in the usually stable East African nation.