news services
updated 2/14/2008 11:37:01 AM ET 2008-02-14T16:37:01

Political rivals trying to lead Kenya out of weeks of violence that left more than 1,000 people dead signed an agreement Thursday, a U.N. spokesman said. No details were released and the talks were to continue next week.

Former U.N. chief Kofi Annan, who is mediating the discussions, will release a text of the agreement Friday afternoon, said the spokesman, Nasser Ega-Musa. A Kenyan government negotiator said the country's political rivals have agreed to write a new constitution.

President Bush, who heads to Africa this week, said he has asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to go to Kenya with a message to the leaders that there must be a full return to democracy.

"In Kenya we're backing the efforts of former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to end the crisis," Bush said.

"And when we're on the continent I've asked Condi Rice ... to travel to Kenya to support the work of the former secretary general and to deliver a message directly to Kenya's leaders and people: there must be an immediate halt to violence, there must be justice for the victims of abuse and there must be a full return to democracy," he said. Bush's schedule does not include Kenya.

News blackout
Annan and the negotiators have spent two days trying to hammer out agreements following a dispute over who won the December presidential election.

A news blackout on the peace talks appeared to be holding; both parties have declined to comment on the discussions.

The talks are being held at a safari lodge in the Tsavo West National Park in southern Kenya. Top negotiators said Tuesday that the opposition was proposing sharing power with the government for two years, then holding new elections.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga accuses President Mwai Kibaki of stealing the Dec. 27 vote, and domestic and international observers have said was deeply flawed. Odinga and Kibaki have been under pressure to share power as a solution.

The political dispute sparked clashes that killed more than 1,000 people and forced 600,000 to flee their homes. Much of the violence has pitted other groups against Kibaki's Kikuyu people, long resented for their prominence in government and business.

The violence has been shockingly brutal in a country once considered among the most stable in Africa, and the ethnic component to the bloodshed has polarized Kenyans as never before.

The conflict has drawn international condemnation, with several countries threatening to cut aid, impose travel bans or freeze the assets of anyone suspected of inciting violence.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.


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