Annan: Kenya agreement premature

February 8, 2008 8:07:26 AM PST
Former U.N. chief Kofi Annan, who is mediating talks between Kenya's political rivals, said Friday they were close to a deal aimed at ending weeks of postelection bloodshed but no power-sharing agreement had been reached yet.Earlier, an opposition lawmaker claimed a deal had been reached. William Ruto said the two sides still were discussing who would lead the government and what roles each party would play. But Annan said that "was jumping the gun."

"We are making progress," Annan said.

"We are all agreed that a political settlement is needed, a political settlement is necessary, and we are now in the process of discussing the details, working out the terms of the settlement," he said. "So you will have to be a little patient."

Annan told reporters he hoped they would complete their work by early next week.

More than 1,000 people have been killed and 300,000 driven from their homes in fighting since the Dec. 27 election that has often pitted many of the East African country's myriad ethnic groups against one another.

International and domestic observers have heavily criticized the vote tallying process and the head of the electoral commission has publicly said he does not know who won the election.

On Thursday, opposition leader Raila Odinga retreated from earlier calls that President Mwai Kibaki should step down.

"We are saying that we are willing to give and take. Initially our stand was that we won the elections, and Mr. Kibaki lost the elections, he should resign, and we should be sworn in, but we have said that we are not static on that point," Odinga told reporters.

Speaking at a prayer meeting in Nairobi earlier Friday, Kibaki said he was "encouraged" by progress in talks and reiterated "my personal support and that of my entire government to this process."

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)