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U.S. presses Kenyan opponents to meet

The Baltimore Sun

NAIROBI, Kenya -- The American government took its toughest position yet on Kenya's disputed elections yesterday, calling on Kenya's president and opposition leaders to meet immediately and saying that the election was so flawed that it was impossible to know who really won.

"The United States cannot conduct business as usual in Kenya," said the statement, written by Jendayi E. Frazer, assistant secretary of state for African affairs.

Kenya, an American ally, receives hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid each year.

Frazer spent much of the past week in Kenya trying to find an end to a post-election crisis that has killed hundreds of people. But she failed to persuade Mwai Kibaki, Kenya's president, and Raila Odinga, the top opposition leader, to even meet.

The two politicians have blamed each other for violence that erupted after disputed election results were announced last month, and both claim to have won the most votes.

Several election observers have said that there was vote rigging on both sides but that the government tampered with the vote tallying process to give the president an 11th-hour victory.

"It is imperative for President Kibaki and Raila Odinga to sit together directly and without preconditions," Frazer said. "Both should acknowledge serious irregularities in the vote tallying which made it impossible to determine with certainty the final result."

Frazer also urged the Kenyan government to lift the recent bans on political rallies and live media coverage of election-related turmoil.

Ngari Gituku, a spokesman for the president's party, responded, saying, "We won - clean."

Salim Lone, a spokesman for Odinga, said, "We're very pleased that the United States has so clearly recognized that it will not be possible to do business as usual in Kenya as long as the current crisis generated by the deeply fraudulent election is not resolved."

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