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Former UN chief hopes for political settlement in Kenya next week; govt lifts ban on rallies
Opposition leader Raila Odinga, center, shakes hands with Minister for Development Cooperation of the Netherlands Bert Koenders after their joint press conference, at the Orange Democratic Movement party headquarters, in Nairobi, Kenya, Friday, Feb. 8, 2008. Koenders is in Kenya to provide political support to the mediation efforts between government and opposition, headed by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. At right is opposition lawmaker Najib Balala. - photo by Associated Press
    NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenya’s rival political parties appear close to an agreement to share power, working on the details of a deal to end weeks of postelection bloodshed that has killed more than 1,000 people, the chief mediator and a leading negotiator said Friday.
    In another sign the crisis was easing, the minister of internal security lifted the ban on public rallies imposed after violence broke out over the East African country’s disputed Dec. 27 presidential election.
    Minister George Saitoti said the move came because ‘‘security has generally improved.’’ He urged legislators and others to hold meetings ‘‘to promote peace and national reconciliation’’ and not to use rallies as ‘‘avenues to incite violence.’’
    Former U.N. chief Kofi Annan, who is mediating talks, said Friday he expected to complete work on a settlement by early next week. ‘‘We are making progress,’’ Annan said.
    Government negotiator Mutula Kilonzo said the two sides had no other choice.
    ‘‘We have agreed that the solution is in a political settlement. How, when, where and by whom will be discussed on Monday,’’ Kilonzo said. ‘‘We have no choice. We can’t allow our people to kill each other because of election results.’’
    The announcement of President Mwai Kibaki’s narrow victory caused riots that degenerated into ethnic clashes. International and domestic observers heavily criticized the vote tallying process.
    Opposition leader Raila Odinga originally said that only new elections would bring peace, while Kibaki maintained his position as president was not negotiable. The two came under international pressure to form a power-sharing government.
    On Thursday, Odinga retreated from his earlier calls that 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.

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