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Kenyan opposition party suspends talks with government, youths set slum fires in protest
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A woman run to safety with her child past burning barricades, Tuesday, April 8, 2008 during clashes between police and opposition party supporters in the Kibera slum in Nairobi. Kenya's opposition party has suspended talks with the government on sharing power until President Mwai Kibaki dissolves his current Cabinet and agrees to negotiate a new government on a 50-50 basis, an opposition official said Tuesday. - photo by Associated Press
    NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenya’s opposition party suspended talks with the government Tuesday and hundreds of angry young opposition backers set fires to protest delays in reaching a power-sharing deal.
    But after a series of demands by the opposition, and replies by the government, it appeared late Tuesday that the talks might soon resume.
    President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga both claim to have won elections in December and are trying to form a joint government to resolve the crisis. More than 1,000 people were killed in weeks of clashes that followed the disputed election, and 300,000 people were displaced.
    Kibaki and Odinga agreed in February to share power, but they have not worked out exactly how.
    In the Kibera slum Tuesday, young supporters of the opposition put up burning barricades and threatened more violence if a government that includes Odinga is not formed quickly.
    ‘‘No Raila, no peace!’’ they chanted.
    Odinga told The Associated Press he was not aware of the protests in Kibera, which he represents in Parliament.
    ‘‘They should hold their horses,’’ Odinga said. ‘‘Talks have not collapsed, but have just been adjourned.’’
    The exchange between the two sides began when Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement, said it had suspended negotiations and would only resume after Kibaki dissolved the current Cabinet.
    Hours later, lawmakers from Kibaki’s Party of National Unity and allied parties apparently acceded to the demand that the Cabinet be dissolved. Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka told journalists the party wanted to go the extra mile to ensure a coalition Cabinet is formed soon.
    The United States and other key Western powers pressured Kenya to resolve the stalemate. They warned that unless a government is formed soon, they would find it ‘‘very difficult’’ to continue funding an emergency program meant to alleviate the postelection turmoil.
    ‘‘Genuine power sharing is required to restore Kenyans’ faith, and that of the development partners, in Kenya’s government,’’ said a joint statement signed by embassies including that of the U.S., the European Union, Britain and France.
    Odinga said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had called him and Kibaki separately late Monday to discuss the deadlock. He offered no details of the conversation.
    Also at issue was the size of the Cabinet, which ballooned to a proposed 40 as negotiations progressed, provoking public anger over the number of high-level jobs being created.
    Nyongo said the Orange Democratic Movement wanted to re-negotiate and reduce the size of the proposed Cabinet to 24.
    Again, the government appeared to eventually agree.
    ‘‘Even if the president has to end up with a Cabinet of 20, we shall support him .... so that a perception is not created that the government coalition is a selfish lot,’’ said Musyoka.
    In Kibera, police fired tear gas to disperse the protesters, who responded by throwing stones. By Tuesday afternoon, the situation was calm.
    Kibaki and Odinga blamed each other Monday for delaying an agreement.
    Odinga, who is the prime minister-designate under the peace deal, said the crisis ‘‘captures the astonishing lengths PNU is willing to go to ensure that it continues to monopolize power.’’
    Kibaki, in a news conference soon afterward, said he is ‘‘ready and willing’’ to implement the deal by forming a new Cabinet if only Odinga would ‘‘engage constructively’’ in talks.
    Observers said the Dec. 27 presidential election was so flawed it was impossible to say who won.
    Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has also expressed concern over the slow formation of a new government under the deal he brokered.
    ——
    Associated Press writers Karel Prinsloo and Katharine Houreld in Nairobi, Kenya contributed to this report.