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Kenyan president taps rival as PM

  • Story Highlights
  • U.S. State Department: "We commend the president and prime minister-designate"
  • The two sides had been unable to agree until Saturday on the Cabinet
  • The United Nations estimates violence killed 1,000 people, displaced 300,000
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(CNN) -- Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki tapped opposition leader Raila Odinga as prime minister, sealing the long-awaited power-sharing deal aimed at settling a dispute over the December elections that led to widespread violence.

Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki, left, and opposition leader Raila Odinga during negotiations last week.

Kibaki also named on Sunday a 40-member coalition Cabinet and thanked Kenyans for their patience during prolonged talks with Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement to reach an agreement.

"I want to assure you all that I will do everything possible to ensure that our country, Kenya, is steered along the path of peace, unity and stability," Kibaki said in a statement.

Odinga's appointment marks the first time Kenya's government has had both a president and prime minister. The new government also includes several new ministries, including portfolios for industrialization, planning, and Nairobi metropolitan development. Kibaki said there also would be a Ministry of Northern Kenya.

"It is the best deal possible under the circumstances," a high-level source familiar with the negotiations told CNN on Saturday. "The deal was reached because of immense international pressure and growing pressure from within Kenya."

Kenya's disputed December 27 election between Kibaki and Odinga sparked weeks of chaos and violence. The incumbent Kibaki narrowly won amid allegations that the vote was rigged.

The United Nations estimates that the violence killed about 1,000 people and drove another 300,000 from their homes.

Under the power-sharing agreement, which Kibaki and Odinga signed on February 28, Cabinet positions were to be distributed equally, but the two sides disagreed on how they would be divided.

Even as negotiators proposed an expansion of the Cabinet to 40 posts, the two sides had been unable to agree until Saturday.

The U.S. State Department -- which had pushed both sides to reach an agreement -- praised the deal Sunday.

"We commend the president and prime minister-designate for once again making the courageous decisions necessary to move the nation forward," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in a written statement. "Formation of the cabinet is an important step along the road toward full implementation of the political accord."

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The State Department urged Kibaki and Odinga to "maintain momentum" by quickly carrying out institutional reforms, including revision of the Kenyan constitution, election reform and land issues.

"As a strong friend and partner of Kenya," McCormack said, "the United States will provide strong support for the coalition government as it works to strengthen democratic institutions and expand prosperity for the benefit of all Kenyans." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About Raila OdingaMwai KibakiKenya

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