Kenya peace deal NEAR

NAIROBI - Kenya's rival parties geared up yesterday to thrash out a power-sharing agreement to end a deadly crisis over President Mwai Kibaki's disputed re-election.

NAIROBI - Kenya's rival parties geared up yesterday to thrash out a power-sharing agreement to end a deadly crisis over President Mwai Kibaki's disputed re-election.

Both sides gave ground last week at talks mediated by former UN boss Kofi Annan, paving the way for a deal to stop turmoil that has killed more than 1000 and uprooted 300000 more.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga accuses Kibaki of rigging the December 27 poll, triggering ethnic violence that has shattered Kenya's image as a peaceful business, tourism and transport hub.

"We are advocating for power-sharing, if need be," Japhet Kareke, an MP from Kibaki's coalition, said. "The president and Raila are talking. For the sake of peace, let them sit down and agree on the way forward."

When negotiations resume today, both sides will discuss what form the power-sharing might take over a two- to three-year period. Annan's mediation team will then brief legislators tomorrow during a special session of parliament.

Speaking in Nairobi yesterday, Odinga said his party supported a political settlement, but gave no details.

"We will not carry out mediation talks through the media."

His Orange Democratic Movement is no longer calling on Kibaki to step down, sources close to the talks say, while Kibaki's Party of National Unity has dropped its demand that the opposition take grievances over the polls to court.

For his part, Annan has sounded optimistic since the apparent breakthrough in the discussions on Friday, saying he now expects delegates to reach a deal within days.

But he has urged caution, saying the talks were far from over. He criticised some participants for leaking details of the negotiations.

Both sides have agreed on principles to end the violence and help refugees. Annan had given them until mid-February to resolve a third item: what should be done about the disputed election.

Annan hopes debate on the deeper underlying issues, such as land grievances, will be tackled within a year.

The bloodshed in Kenya has exposed deep divisions over land, wealth and power that were sown during British colonial rule and have been stoked by politicians ever since.

"I hope and know that Kenyans do not want to go back to a one-party state," the visiting Anglican Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, a Ugandan former judge, said. - Reuters

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