African Union Head Arrives in Kenya to Break Impasse

NAIROBI, Kenya -- African Union chief John Kufuor met Kenya's president and opposition leader Wednesday to try to break a political impasse behind post-election turmoil that has killed about 500 people.

Kufuor, the president of Ghana, first met President Mwai Kibaki at his State House office and residence, then went straight to a hotel for talks with Raila Odinga.

Odinga says he was cheated of winning the Dec. 27 vote by fraud.

The crisis has dented Kenya's reputation for stability in a turbulent corner of Africa, hurt key economic sectors like tourism and tea, and tainted Kibaki's previous reputation as a gentlemanly leader with a penchant for P.G. Wodehouse novels.

Long used to receiving refugees from neighboring hot spots like Sudan and Somalia, Kenya now has more than a quarter of a million of its own internally displaced people, many the victims of fighting between different ethnic groups.

In a statement after their meeting, Kibaki's office said the president assured Kufuor that he was initiating dialogue and "would continue to reach out to Kenyan leaders."

Kibaki has implied that he could bring opposition figures into government and invited Odinga to a face-to-face meeting on Friday. But the opposition leader has declined, saying such a meeting would be a "sideshow" without an international mediator.

"There can be no lasting solution without justice," Odinga said after meeting a visiting group of former African leaders.

Kibaki's naming of 17 ministers late Tuesday sparked more violence around eastern Africa's largest economy.

Kenya's main paper, the Daily Nation, said the appointments -- which included a defeated presidential candidate and several figures hated by the opposition -- may "poison the atmosphere."