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Annan set for Kenyan crisis talks

  • Story Highlights
  • Former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan due to arrive in Nairobi Tuesday
  • Foreign Minister said hopes were high Annan can help resolve Kenya's crisis
  • Electoral dispute has sparked violent clashes, leaving at least 500 dead
  • Annan will act as "facilitator to dialogue" in talks between Kibaki and Odinga
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NAIROBI, Kenya (CNN) -- Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetang'ula said hopes were high that former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan can start a dialogue to help resolve Kenya's political crisis.

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Riot police patrol the streets of Nairobi on Sunday.

But Wetang'ula pointed out that only Kenya's courts can decide if President Mwai Kibaki's government is legitimate.

Annan, who is expected to arrive in Nairobi Tuesday, follows a visit by European Union development commissioner Louis Michel, who met with Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga over the weekend.

The international community has pressured Kenyan leaders to resolve the election crisis as soon as possible, and stop violence that has killed at least 500 people.

Wetang'ula said Annan would serve as a "facilitator to dialogue" and not as a "mediator." He said they would not negotiate "the validity or otherwise of President Kibaki being in office."

"The dialogue is going to see how, as Kenyans, we can resolve the problems that have arisen from an electoral dispute," Wetang'ula said in an interview with CNN Monday.

President Kibaki, he said, would will come to the table with goodwill and with good faith.

"I am ... optimistic," Wetang'ula said. "I have no doubt that we are going to talk and we are going to yield positive outcome form the talks."

He said the government wants "to agree to stop violence completely, agree to talk to Kenyans and lessen the ethnic tension that we have seen that (has) erupted all over the country."

U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger said Washington "wants a recommitment by President Kibaki and Raila Odinga to meet one on one under the aegis of Kofi Annan, as soon as possible."

The EU's Michel met with Kibaki and Odinga on Saturday. An EU spokeswoman said Michel was not trying to broker a deal, but was in Kenya to "collect first-hand information."

"We had a very nice discussion about the political situation in the country, the crisis that we are having," Odinga said after the meeting. "We told him our point of view."

Michel, meanwhile, said that the lack of stability in the nation "is good news for the extremists and anti-democratic forces."

"President Kibaki, of course, recognizes that there is a serious problem in his country," Michel said. "He is very concerned about that. There is a need for dialogue, cooling down and trying to get peaceful solutions. But he also knows that substantial problems have to be resolved."

Kenya, long one of the most stable and economically developed nations in East Africa, descended into chaos after the Dec. 27 elections.

Kibaki was re-elected in balloting that was thought to be rigged by many of his opponents. The result sparked widespread ethnically related violence. Supporters of Kibaki, a member of the Kikuyu tribe, have battled with supporters of Odinga, a member of the Luo tribe, in bloody street fights that often involved machetes.

The government has placed the death toll from the violence at 516, while the opposition puts it at more than 1,000 dead.

Wetang'ula criticized election observers who have called Kenya's elections "flawed" accusing them of rushing to "hurried conclusions" based on "inadequate facts" adding that "declared statements that have made the situation worse."

Kenyan media reported Sunday that marauding youths armed with spears, bows and arrows and machetes were destroying homes around the town of Eldoret, near the border with Uganda.

The Kenyan Sunday Nation newspaper quoted the local district commissioner Abdi Halake, who said that six people were killed and 50 houses were burned to the ground in the weekend violence.

The Rift Valley town of Eldoret has been the scene of much of the post-election violence, which has resulted in at hundreds of deaths and driven thousands from their homes.

Odinga's party kept up its protest against the president, announcing at a press conference Saturday plans for an "economic boycott" of companies whose directors are perceived to be close allies of the president, the Sunday Nation reported.

"These individuals are using the wealth they have created from our open democratic system to undermine the rule of law and democracy in Kenya," the paper reported party chairman Henry Kosgey as saying.

Kosgey said on Saturday the party plans to hold its next set of "peaceful rallies" throughout the nation on Thursday. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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