NAIROBI, Kenya – Mediator Kofi Annan suspended weeks of negotiations on Kenya's deadly postelection crisis Tuesday, saying he would personally appeal for a power-sharing deal because talks were "turning around in circles."
Annan, who delivered a sharp rebuke to both sides a day earlier, said he will consult President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga to try to reinvigorate talks. The two have been under international pressure to share power to move the country beyond a dispute over who won the Dec. 27 presidential election.
International and local monitors say the results were manipulated, making it unclear who would have won.
"I hope people will understand this is a move intended to speed up action," Annan said of the steps announced Tuesday. He added that the negotiating teams "were discussing issues that the parties seemed incapable of solving. We were turning around in circles."
The delays have frustrated Kenyans, many of whom have seen their jobs and homes destroyed. Postelection violence has largely subsided in recent weeks, but attacks that killed more than 1,000 people and forced 600,000 from their homes have left the country on edge and worried about the potential for more turmoil. The bloodshed has tarnished the reputation of a country once seen as a beacon of stability in Africa.
"It is Raila and Kibaki alone who can solve this thing," said Ronnie Mdwawida, a 39-year-old social worker in the capital, Nairobi. "The future of Kenya is at the mercy of these two leaders."
Much of the violence has been ethnic, between supporters of Kibaki, a Kikuyu, and groups who back Odinga, a Luo.
International pressure on the two sides has been mounting. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who visited Kenya earlier this month to urge progress, said the U.S. relationship with any future Kenyan political leadership is at stake.
"I want to emphasize that the future of our relationship with both sides and their legitimacy hinges on their cooperation to achieve this political solution," Rice said in a statement, without elaborating.
Kenyan Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula criticized Rice's statement, saying the international community is welcome to make suggestions "but not to impose solutions."
U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey expressed disappointment that talks had had to be suspended. He says the United States will review the "full range of options" that it might take. But he would not discuss any specifics.
Negotiators for Kibaki and Odinga have agreed in principle to create a new prime minister's post for the opposition, but sticking points remain over just how much power such a post would carry.
Mutula Kilonzo, government negotiator, said he objected to Annan's decision to suspend talks.
"We were making progress until tempers flared in the afternoon, but this is part of negotiations," he said.
Opposition negotiator Musalia Mudavadi said his party remains committed to the talks. "They have been suspended and if the timing is right and we are required to get back to the negotiating table, we shall be there," he said.
Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement, meanwhile, filed papers Monday giving police the required three days' notice for mass rallies planned Thursday, raising fears of bloodshed. Past rallies turned violent as police pushed back the crowds.
The government on Tuesday urged Kenyans to boycott the rallies.
Throughout the talks, low-level unrest has continued and the country's economy has struggled to recover from a severe drop in tourist dollars during the high season.
Adding more international pressure for a deal, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, the current head of the African Union, arrived in Nairobi on Tuesday to support the mediation process and meet with all sides.