Kenyan opposition party suspends talks with government

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.

The Orange Democratic Movement wants to negotiate top government positions, including ambassadorial posts as well as Cabinet posts, on an equal basis, said Anyang Nyongo, the party's secretary general.

The Orange Democratic Movement has decided "negotiations between the ODM and PNU (Kibaki's Party of National Unity) be suspended until PNU fully recognizes the 50-50 power sharing arrangement and the principle of portfolio balance," said Nyongo, reading a statement agreed to by party officials.

"This also means that executive power and authority must be shared between the prime minister and the president," said Nyongo.

He said the party will re-negotiate to reduce the size of the proposed 40-member Cabinet, to which party leader Raila Odinga and Kibaki had agreed Thursday, to 24 members because of public demands for a lean Cabinet.

Earlier Tuesday, Slovenia, in a statement on behalf of the European Union, urged the rivals "to maintain the momentum for reconciliation by forming an effective and efficient coalition government as soon as possible that reflects genuine power-sharing between Kenya's parties."

On Monday, Kibaki and Odinga blamed each other for delaying a power-sharing agreement to end the country's postelection crisis.

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.

Both men claimed victory in the Dec. 27 presidential election, which sparked weeks of violence that killed more than 1,000 people and drove 300,000 people from their homes before the two agreed to share power in February. Observers said the vote was so flawed it was impossible to say who won.

Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has expressed concern over the slow formation of a new government under the deal he brokered. Annan's statement echoed the frustration of many Kenyans at how long it has taken the leaders to put the power-sharing deal into effect, particularly after Parliament quickly pushed through laws to legalize the deal.

Kibaki and Odinga have been wrangling over the makeup of a new Cabinet, which is supposed to be split between Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement and Kibaki's allies. But Odinga and Kibaki have failed to agree on which party will get the most powerful posts.

A breakthrough was announced late last week, but no details were offered and the deal disintegrated.