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Kenyan rivals hold 'ice-breaker' talks

  • Story Highlights
  • Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga have met
  • Former U.N..Secretary General Kofi Annan mediated the encounter
  • The meeting was the first since the disputed election on December 27
  • More than 500 people have been killed in violence that followed the election
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NAIROBI, Kenya (CNN) -- Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga met Thursday for the first time since last month's bitterly disputed election, under the auspices of former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

"Today, we have taken the first vital steps in resolving the electoral dispute and conflict that has ravaged this country for nearly a month now," said Odinga, who shook hands with Kibaki following Thursday's meeting.

Government officials told CNN they are not willing to negotiate the legitimacy of Kibaki's presidency -- which is at the center of the electoral dispute -- and said that the opposition must take up that issue with Kenya's courts.

That position was reiterated by Kibaki's brief statement following his meeting with Odinga: "After being sworn in as your duly elected president of Kenya, I will personally lead our country in promoting unity, tolerance, peace, and harmony among Kenyans."

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The one-hour meeting was intended to "break the ice," Kenya's Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula had said earlier.

The three men were alone in the room, without any aides, in an effort "to show we support genuine dialogue," Wetangula said.

Annan arrived in Kenya on Tuesday to help resolve the dispute that has resulted in widespread ethnic violence, although some say tensions had been simmering long before the December 27 vote.

More than 500 people have been killed in the violence that followed the election in which Kibaki kept his post.


Odinga, the Orange Democratic Movement candidate for president, and his supporters claim the election was rigged, and international observers noted some irregularities in the voting.

After the vote, supporters of Kibaki, a member of the Kikuyu tribe, battled with supporters of Odinga, a member of the Luo tribe, in bloody street fights that often involved machetes. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Stephanie Halasz contributed to this report.

Copyright 2008 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

All About KenyaRaila OdingaMwai KibakiKofi Annan

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